Caution – Lust may not be erotic!

I saw Ang Lee’s latest film at the weekend. I had the same reaction to it as I did to Brokeback Mountain. A long, very stylish but somewhat vacuous film which depended on a single taboo to keep the audiences filing in. In his cowboy predecessor it was, of course, the love that could not speak its name and in Lust, Caution it turned out to be the love that dare not say it was actual sex before the cameras.

Whilst some people might find Lust, Caution erotic (after all, there are people who find all kinds of situations and interactions between humans and objects, birds and beasts, sexually charging) it left me in a state of secondary voyeurism. By this I mean that I find myself disengaged from the visuals of perspiring bodies in unusual positions and watching the camera, watching the action. I wonder whether the director is calling, “down a bit”, “right a bit”, “deeper, deeper”, “what’s your spare hand for, for God’s sake!”, as he orchestrates the action. Or did he lay out a chart of the sex moves and ask them to improvise around them? Whatever, it felt like a fabrication. Not that the filming of real sex has any great interest for me, either. What other people do is what they do and it’s up to them whether they want to beat the daylights out of each other, manacle each other or half-suffocate in plastic bags. It only appeals, in cinematic terms, if it furthers a plot and deepens my understanding of character and the perambulations of humanity. In any case, film relies totally on sound and vision and actual sex is as much dominated by touch, taste and smell which film can never convey, unless it’s a truly remarkable piece of cinematography.

At the end of the day, the attempted graphic realisation of sex in Lust, Caution tries to eradicate doubt as to what is going on and, in doing so, eradicates also the potential for sexual fantasy in this viewer.

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