China commands 'Lust' cuts for sex, violence


SHANGHAI -- "Lust, Caution," the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion winner for best picture, will be cut by 30 minutes for audiences on the Chinese mainland, Chinese state media reported late Monday.

Ang Lee's thriller, set in the 1930s, portrays a sexually explicit relationship between a young female spy, played by Tang Wei, and a powerful political figure (Tony Leung) set against the backdrop of turbulent Japanese-occupied Shanghai during WWII.

Lee said that, while the short version remains "reasonable," Chinese mainland audiences might not feel "so uneasy" and "shocked" about the film. In addition to cutting the sex scenes, some violent scenes also are to be cut, news agency Xinhua said.

Lee's "Brokeback Mountain," which won the director his first Academy Award in 2006, was banned in China for its overt homosexual themes.

Despite much discussion in China, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has never introduced a ratings system, so films must be made appropriate for all potential audiences there.

Lee said he is going to respect the official advice and that he has edited the film himself from its original 156-minute length to protect its integrity, a representative for Hong Kong-based co-producer Edko Films said.

While the original version has received an NC-17 rating in the U.S., the edited version has received the approval of China's Film Bureau, a bureau spokesperson said.

Lee said he "took pains to cut it" because he "attached much importance to the Chinese market," Xinhua said. The film will open in China on Oct. 26, more than a month after the scheduled Sept. 23 release date for Hong Kong, Taiwan and the rest of the world, Xinhua said.

"It is a pity that China has no ratings system," said Jimmy Wu, chairman of Beijing-based production company China Vision Group. "It is unsatisfying when a film is censored, like getting an apple that already has a bite taken out of it."

A ratings system would both protect young people from seeing adult movies as well as allowing adults to view movies with a more mature theme, Wu said. He added that the delayed theatrical release date and censorship could both lead to increased piracy of the film and reduced boxoffice returns.

"Censors are not film editors," Wu said. "People want the version the director put his heart into, not a cut version, and we should respect the director's work."