Ang Lee’s Lady of Lust

In a scene from Ang Lee’s new film Lust, Caution, a freshman drama student named Wong Chia-Chi rides on the top level of a two-decker bus rolling on the rain-soaked streets of Hong Kong during World War II. She playfully drags on her first cigarette before leaning out the window to let raindrops sprinkle her alcohol-blushed face. The girl, played by Chinese actress Tang Wei, is a shy, sweet 15 year old.

Just weeks (and many plot twists) later, Ms. Wei’s demure Wong finds herself transformed into Mak Tai Tai, a bourgeois, subtly sexy merchant’s wife who wears tightly tailored dresses and bright lipsticks. She has a mission to seduce Mr. Yee (played by heartthrob Tony Leung), a cruel Chinese political figure who was handpicked by the Japanese to stifle uprisings, so that her newfound rebellious cohorts can murder him.

Ms. Wei, with her chameleonlike abilities and elegant beauty, makes a bold, exquisite debut on the big screen, where she had to get naked and brutally freaky with Mr. Leung during some steamy sex scenes. All that tension Mr. Lee so masterfully built in his 2005 Oscar winner Brokeback Mountain was surely released for this film; sweaty torsos, hairy armpits, acrobatic positions and all. Not to mention long, silky legs. Tang Wei, we’ll never quit you!