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Lust, Busted?

Last year I had the chance to talk with director Ang Lee on the occasion of the release of his steamy, unrated film “Lust, Caution.” Ever the champion of beautiful young women who appear naked on screen, I asked him if he was concerned about the impact the film would have on Tang Wei, who engages with Tony Leung in numerous graphic and anatomically challenging sexual acts. After all, I pointed out, this kind of exposure has traditionally had a bad effect on an actress’s career, as witness Kerry Fox after “Intimacy,” Chloe Sevigny after “The Brown Bunny,” Maria Schneider after “Last Tango in Paris.”

He seemed genuinely worried. “Oh gosh,” he said. “I hope not. I try everything to protect the actors—and not just the sexual scenes, but a whole career thing. Before she was nothing and now she’s getting so much attention. I try every step of the way to protect her and educate her—make sure she’s going on the right path. I helped her find her next project. I do the best I can. I have not sent any young actor in my career to a mental institution. [as did Schneider].”

Turns out my concern was not unfounded. She hasn’t ended up in the loony bin, but her Pond’s cosmetics ads have been banned in mainland China because of the movie, even though it had been cut to accommodate the local censors. True to his word, Lee has backed his star up, saying, "I am very regretful that Tang Wei has been hurt by this decision. She gave a great performance in this properly produced and distributed film. I will do everything I can to support her in this difficult time.”

Let’s see if that takes some of the sting out of her financial loss -- her contract with Ponds was paying her $845,000.

Needless to say, Leung doesn’t seem to have suffered any lasting consequences, except maybe some snarky remarks from acquaintances about his bobbing scrotum. In general, the men get off pretty easy (no pun intended) in these movies. True, Vincent Gallo’s career hasn’t exactly taken off after Sevigny put the finishing touches on his “Brown Bunny” (coming up for Gallo, the role of “Kevin Stiff” in “The Funeral Director”). But nobody came out of that film in good shape.

By way of contrast, however, there’s the case of Mathieu Amalric, who prior to starring in the Oscar nominated “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” showed the world what was lying idle in that wheel chair in “The Story of Richard O.” No locked in syndrome for Richard O!

So: there’s no justice. In fact, though, there is. You might recall the loathsome John Gibson of  Fox radio mocking “Brokeback Mountain” star Heath Ledger just after his death, homophobically noting that “we learned how to quit you.” Well, likewise I’m sure, as low ratings have lead to the cancellation of Gibson's show. And so, though dead, Ledger still outshines Gibson, receiving glowing accolades for his appearance as The Joker in the trailer for  the yet to be released Batman movie, “The Dark Knight.” Looks like Ledger’s getting the last laugh after all.

 

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