Ang Lee acknowledges editing new film for political reasons

2007-12-08 05:26:11 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Taiwanese director Ang Lee speaks during a press conference before the 44th annual Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007. The Golden Horse Film Awards is one of the most prominent award venues for the Chinese language film industry. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

TAIPEI -- Ang Lee said Saturday he edited a line in the mainland Chinese version of his new spy thriller "Lust, Caution" at the request of censors, to make the main female character appear less of a traitor to the Chinese.

The Oscar-winning director had said earlier he cut sexually explicit scenes from the Chinese-language movie. Mainland China doesn't have a ratings system. All movies that pass censorship must be appropriate for all ages.

But Lee said at a press conference in Taipei besides editing the film for sex and violence, he also changed the dialogue for political reasons.

"Lust, Caution" is about an undercover Chinese student activist who seduces the Japanese-allied spy chief in World War II-era Shanghai to pave way for his assassination.

Lee said he edited the climax of the film, when the activist gives away the assassination plot moments before it's launched.

The activist says, "let's go," instead of "go quickly," an edit that makes her intentions less ambiguous.

Lee said Chinese censors were worried about the backlash from the plot line of a supposedly patriotic activist aiding a Japanese collaborator.

Anti-Japanese feeling is still common in China. Many locals still feel Japan hasn't showed enough remorse for the atrocities it committed in China during the World War II era. Historians say Japanese troops slaughtered at least 150,000 Chinese civilians and raped tens of thousands of women in the city of Nanjing in 1937.

Lee acknowledged he made an artistic compromise but said he felt he still conveyed his message. He said the movie's subject matter itself -- the portrayal of a Japanese collaborationist -- marked a breakthrough from Chinese taboos.

"I didn't want to become a martyr," he said, adding he was glad to see discussion of his cuts on the Internet and that he thought "people appreciated my hard work and my intentions"

Lee also said he didn't have high hopes at the Oscars next year for "Lust, Caution" because of its limited mainstream exposure in the U.S. due to its restrictive "NC-17" rating, which bans viewers younger than 17.

"We don't dare to release the movie beyond art-house movie theaters. That hurts our Oscar chances. It hasn't become a hit. The Oscars are decided by vote, so buzz matters," he said.

The film is a big hit in mainland China and Lee's hometown Taiwan and won the top Golden Lion Prize at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year but its American box office is limited.

Lee said he wants to attempt pure comedy in the vein of Jim Carrey next.

Lee, who is based in the U.S., is visiting his native Taiwan to attend the Golden Horse Awards, the Chinese-language equivalent of the Oscars. "Lust, Caution" is up for 11 awards, including best picture and best director.

The awards will be announced later Saturday.