'Lust' star banned for performance

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HONG KONG -- "Lust, Caution" star Tang Wei has been banned in the Chinese media because of the sexual nature of her performance in the Ang Lee film, local press reports said Friday.

An internal memo from China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television was allegedly sent to all television stations and print media in China on Thursday night, stating that a new television commercial starring Tang for skin care brand Pond's was to cease broadcast immediately. All print ads and feature content using the actress also were to be pulled. The memo gave no reason for the ban.

Tang's deal with Pond's is worth a reported 6 million yuan ($843,000).

Neither Tang's manager nor SARFT could be reached for comment, but her "Lust, Caution" director weighed in on the decision Friday.

"I am very disappointed that Tang Wei is being hurt by this decision," Lee said in a statement. "She gave one of the greatest performances ever in a movie that was properly produced and distributed. We will do everything we can to support her in this difficult time."

In a statement dated March 7, titled "Reassertion of Censorship Guidelines," SARFT said that on Monday it informed all major film and broadcast entities and governing bodies that it was renewing prohibitions on "lewd and pornographic content" and content that "show promiscuous acts, rape, prostitution, sexual intercourse, sexual perversity, masturbation and male/female sexual organs and other private parts." However, the public notice, posted on SARFT's Web site, did not specifically mention "Lust" or Tang.

In addition, all awards shows in China were advised to exclude Tang and the producers of "Lust, Caution" from their list of guests, while discussions about the film and Tang on online forums were deleted, Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily reported.

A spokesperson for the Asian Film Awards, where Tang was announced Friday as a presenter, said in an interview that the event had no knowledge of any ban and had not been contacted by Tang's management. The awards are set for March 17 in Hong Kong. It was not clear whether the ban would extend to awards shows in Hong Kong.

The announcement comes during the annual meeting of China's highest legislative body, the National People's Congress, in Beijing. The yearly event is an occasion for a shuffling of government positions and the introduction or renewal of regulations and policies. The NPC concludes March 18.

"Lust," Lee's artsy thriller, reportedly upset China's central government, where top officials were said to have criticized the film's content as "glorification of traitors and insulting to patriots." SARFT reportedly was singled out in the censure for permitting the film to be released in China last year, even after seven minutes of graphic sex scenes were cut from the film's theatrical release.

"Lust" is 28-year-old Tang's first major film, and both audiences and critics lauded her for holding her own, particularly given the intense nature of the sexual scenes with co-star Tony Leung Chiu-wai.

The ban of a film, along with its cast and crew, months after release is not uncommon in China. In early January, SARFT banned the producers of the film "Lost in Beijing" for two years and ordered the film's theatrical and home video release to be recalled. The "Lost" cinematic release had been delayed because of sexual content, which was ultimately cut from both the theatrical and home video editions.

"Lust" was controversial in China for both its political and sexually provocative content. Some Chinese tourists traveled to Hong Kong during the Oct. 1 national holiday to watch the full version of the film, which boosted its Hong Kong boxoffice. The film earned HK$48.8 million ($6.2 million), making it the highest-grossing Chinese-language film in Hong Kong in 2007.
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