The MPAA thinks Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” has too much lust, and it’s cautioning moviegoers by branding it with an NC-17 rating.
Distributor Focus Features said it won’t edit the Oscar-winning Lee’s follow-up to “Brokeback Mountain” or try to appeal the rating – which says that no one 17 and under will be admitted – creating potential distribution problems for its awards-season contender.
“Lust” follows a young Chinese woman in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II who becomes the center of a plot to seduce and kill a married enemy collaborator. The trailer for the subtitled Chinese-language film shows lead actors
Tony Leung and Tang Wei in various states of writhing passion.
The MPAA ratings board cited the film’s graphic sexuality for its decision. A source said too many of the film’s sex scenes violated the ratings board’s unwritten rules (like the number of allowable pelvic thrusts, for example) to make an appeal possible.
Sources who have seen the film said it contains at least three scenes – one a long montage – featuring multiple acts of aggressive sexual activity in different positions. There’s no full-frontal male nudity (the source of some NC-17 rulings when shown in sex scenes), but male-on-female oral sex, non-S&M restraints and several nontraditional sexual positions are depicted, conveying the aggression and emotional conflict between the main characters.
When asked if anyone was shown, say, upside down, one viewer said, "It depends on where you’re standing. They’re very flexible."
Focus CEO James Schamus, who co-wrote the screenplay, said he is accepting the rating “without protest. When we screened the final cut of this film, we knew we weren’t going to change a frame,” he said. "Every moment up on that screen works and is an integral part of the emotional arc of the characters. The MPAA has screened the film now and made its decision, and we’re comfortable with that."
Schamus didn’t disclose how long the company was aware that “Lust” might receive an NC-17 but noted that Lee has final cut. “Ang is the filmmaker, and he brought this adaptation to life,” Schamus said. "He knows exactly what he wants to realize and achieve in filming any given sequences, and he made the final decisions on how to stage, frame, shoot and edit them, much in the same way he did with ‘Crouching Tiger’ or ‘Brokeback.’ "