This essay aims to gauge the different receptions of Ang Lee's recent film Lust, Caution between American and Chinese publics and across a cultural landscape of the pan-Chinese regions of Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. It also brings a contextual and historical dimension to bear on Ang Lee's intentions in making this film as well as on the differences of style and approach between Ang Lee and Eileen Chang, on whose original story the film is based. The essay pays particular attention to Ang Lee's diasporic background as a Chinese filmmaker from Taiwan with a cultural sensibility that makes his films not imitations of Hollywood products but manifestations of a particular sense of “repression” that stems from this background. Such symptoms of repression must be understood in terms of the historical context in which the story and film are based—Japanese Shanghai under the repressive collaborationist regime of Wang Jingwei (1939–1945). The film's plot takes off directly from this context, which in turn informs Ang Lee's adaptation. The competing “structures of domination” come from two rivaling regimes of the Guomindang (Nationalist Party) as well as the Japanese military, which imprisons both the young heroine, a novice spy, and the villain, a security police chief of the “puppet” regime. Their sentimental and romantic entanglement, not pronounced in the original Eileen Chang story, bears a distinct trait of Ang Lee's directorial style as an artistic articulation of this sense of repression.

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