Ong Sor Fern
Fri, Oct 26, 2007
The Straits Times
Uncut Lust, Caution coming with R21 rating

FINALLY, Singaporeans will get to see unfettered Lust.

The full 157-minute version of Taiwanese director Lee Ang's Lust, Caution has been passed clean with an R21 rating by the Board of Film Censors.

This follows howls of protest from moviegoers after the film distributor decided to bring in a truncated version that could get an NC16 rating and, presumably, bring in more money at the box office.

Ms Maan Villareal, marketing director at Buena Vista International which is distributing the film here, told Life! yesterday that it will be released during Deepavali week. It will show on 10 screens from Nov 8.

Mr Brett Hogg, general manager of Buena Vista Columbia Tristar (Singapore), denied that the decision to release the full version was due to the public furore.

Defending the company's decision to release the NC16 version, he said: 'It would have been reverse censorship if we were to release only the festival version. There's a group of people between 16 and 21 who wouldn't have been able to see the film.'

The edited version, missing nine minutes, has made about $525,000 at the box office here since its Oct 4 opening. Ms Villareal said: 'It performed relatively well for an arthouse picture.'

The takings for NC16 films vary widely, from $120,000 for a commercial slasher flick like House Of Wax (2005) to a healthy $3.1 million for Jet Li's gongfu flick Fearless (2006).

An R21 film has yet to match that latter figure. The highest-grossing film so far is Lee's Oscar-winning gay cowboy love story Brokeback Mountain (2005) which made $720,000 in seven weeks.

Industry insiders Life! spoke to noted that the re-release would mean more work for the distributor, which will have to pull materials from the current release and prepare for the R21 release.

This adds to more marketing and print costs which will also affect the bottomline, said one industry insider.

Another industry veteran, who did not want to reveal his name, added: 'I don't think the release was a complete shambles but they misjudged the audience for the movie. The target audience was the mature, sophisticated crowd, but they thought Lee Ang was a commercial director.'

The period espionage thriller, about a torrid love affair in 1940s wartorn Shanghai based on a short story by the late China- born author Eileen Chang, featured sex scenes between stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Tang Wei, as well as a violent murder scene.

These were excised in an edit by Lee for the conservative China market. It was also the version that Buena Vista opted to bring to Singapore. An NC16 rating means those aged 16 and above can watch the movie while the uncut R21 version would have limited audiences to those 21 and above.

Under Media Development Authority regulations, there must be a two-week gap between the end of the cinema run for a film with one rating and the same film with another rating. This is to ensure that the public will not be confused by different ratings for the same film.

The NC16 version, as well as associated posters and publicity material, will be removed from cineplexes by Tuesday.

While most second-run films tend to perform poorly at the box office, Golden Village's managing director Kenneth Tan is optimistic about the reception for the R21 version of Lust, Caution.

'The entire fuss around it has increased total public awareness of the film,' he said. 'That's had the effect of attracting people who otherwise might not have gone to see a Lee Ang film.'

Film-maker Wee Li Lin, 33, who boycotted the NC16 version, is happy that she will finally get to see the full version.

'My husband and I are big Lee Ang fans. It just seemed ridiculous to watch this film about a relationship with the sex scenes cut out. I'm glad we held out,' she said.

The US$15-million (S$22-million) film has had a rocky journey so far. Besides raising controversy for its explicit sex scenes, it has received mixed reviews from Western critics despite winning the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.

In the United States, where the film has been on limited release, it has made only about US$2.2 million. According to the website Box Office Mojo, it has grossed another US$11.3 million worldwide.

In Asia, the film has been a box-office phenomenon, earning US$4.5 million in Hong Kong and US$3.4 million in Taiwan.

Earlier this month, the movie was rejected as Taiwan's Oscar hope by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the coveted statuette. It said that not enough Taiwanese participated in its production for it to be accepted as a nomination for a Best Foreign Language Film from Taiwan.

To add insult to injury, the Hong Kong Film Awards has also just rejected the film for a similar reason, saying that not enough Hong Kong residents worked on the film.



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