From "The Wedding Banquet" (1993), about a gay Taiwanese man in New York who feigns marriage to satisfy his parents, to "Brokeback Mountain," Lee, 52, has never shied away from difficult themes or bold sexuality. "Lust, Caution" is no different; it earned a rare NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America for its explicit sex scenes. Lee spoke by telephone with NEWSWEEK'S Andrew Huang. Excerpts:
What appealed to you about Chang
Lee: Very little Chinese literature describes sex. [Chang's story] is one of the few daring ones. It tells us what women get from sex. It scared me for quite a few years, but I decided to do it.
How was making
The material of "Brokeback Mountain" is very far away from me. I mean, American gay cowboy, that's as far as you get from my personal experience. I was able to make art out of it. Physically I was very relaxed making it. But with "Lust, Caution," the materials, the characters and the textures are very close to me. It's very intense physically. It reminds me where my culture comes from.
What was the hardest part?
Well, obviously, the sex scenes. You can't just take it easy because people make pornographic films. It's very difficult physically and psychologically. People think you have the framework, and then you decide how deep you want to go with the sex scenes because they usually arefunctional. But to me how they landed decided how the movie would unfold. So I actually shot them relatively early. Then they served as the anchors to decide how to craft the second half of the story.
Philosophically, what is filmmaking to you?
It's the way I discover myself and understand the world.