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Big Screen Dream Team
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This year's Venice Film Festival features a slew of new Chinese films. Ang Lee is back at the Lido with his Shanghai-set espionage thriller Lust, Caution (Se Jie). Adapted from a short story by Elieen Chang, a 1920s-born writer known for her stories of love in 1930s' Shanghai and occupied Hong Kong, the film revolves around a college girl and a spy she is supposed to assassinate but falls in love with.

As Lee's favorite among Chang's works, the 10,000-word story is considered part of the legendary author's own love life. She spent 10 years writing and revising it.

Lee says he chose the story because Chang views this chaotic era from a woman's personal perspective and through a delicate love story, which sets her apart from other writers of the period.

Lee puts a comma between "Lust" and "Caution" in the title. As he explains, lust refers to ambition, desire and feeling, while caution refers to property, restrain and rationality. If lust is lost in desire, caution is how to stop it before it is too late.

Lee invited Hong Kong star Tony Leung, who he calls a "directors' dream", to play the leading role Mr Yi. His female counterpart is mainland young actress Tang Wei. Chinese-American veteran Joan Chen plays Mr Yi's wife.

The film started screening yesterday in China and the United States.

Also in the competition section is Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises (Taiyang Zhaochang Shengqi), described by the festival's director Marco Muller as "China's first Emir Kusturica-like satire".

It has been seven years since the Chinese Marlon Brando's last directorial work - Devils on the Doorstep (Guizi Laile), which won the Grand Prize Jury award at the Cannes Festival in 2000.

Sun is a four-part fantasy set in the 1970s, according to Jiang. But the trailer shows that he is trying to prove there is more to Chinese cinema than martial arts and period pieces.

Jaycee Chan, son of superstar Jackie Chan, plays a low-level village leader.

The star-studded cast also includes Joan Chen, Hong Kong veteran Anthony Wong and Jiang himself.

It was at the Lido in 1994 that Jiang's first-time outing as director In the Heat of the Sun (Yangguang Canlan De Rizi) won a Best Actor award with then 16-year-old actor Xia Yu.

At this year's Venice festival, internationally acclaimed Zhang Yimou, Jiang's old buddy, will lead the director-only main jury.

The former two- time Golden Lion winner with The Story of Qiu Ju (Qiuju Da Guansi) and Not One Less (Yige Dou Buneng Shao) praised the festival's director Muller in a letter thanking him "for being my staunch supporter" from the start of his career.

In Zhang's maiden work Red Sorghum (Hong Gaoliang) in 1987, Jiang played the lead. The film won a Golden Berlin Bear, which launched Zhang's career internationally.

The two teamed up again 10 years later in Zhang's urban satire Keep Cool (Youhua Haohao Shuo).

Adding to this year's Chinese fever is Taiwan director Lee Kang-Sheng's Help Me Eros (Bangbang Wo Aishen). The director is known mainly for his frequent appearances in Tsai Ming-liang's films as a lonely and aimless Taipei dweller.

Eros is his second directorial work, after his first, The Missing (Bu Jian), won three awards at the Rotterdam festival.

Following Tsai's footsteps, Eros is a stark piece about relationships in the metropolis. Among the explicit scenes in the film is one where, the actor/director appears nude himself.

In the Horizons Documentary section, last year's Golden Lion winner Jia Zhangke brings a documentary named Useless (Wu Yong), which follows female Chinese designer Ma Ke.

The film is divided into three parts - looking at a clothes factory in Guangzhou, tailors in Shanxi's coalmine area and Ma Ke in Paris. The documentary doubles as an exploration of the fashion industry and of modern consumerism.

He will compete with another young Chinese director Du Haibin's documentary titled Umbrella (San).

Established cinematographer Lu Le enters the Horizon section with The Obscure (Xiao Shuo), which features 11 Chinese writers as guest stars in a story about an authors' gathering. Lu, busy working for John Woo's war epic Red Cliff (Chi Bi), will not attend the festival.

Blood Brothers (Tiantang Kou), from Hong Kong filmmaker Alexi Tan, will close the festival. Inspired by John Woo's Bullet in the Head (Diexue Jietou) in 1990, the film focuses on three ambitious young men in 1930s' Shanghai and is produced by Woo and Terence Chang's Lion Rock Prods.

The festival runs from August 29 to September 8.

Hong Kong star Tony Leung and mainland actress Tang Wei star in Ang Lee's thriller Lust, Caution (Se Jie).

(China Daily August 29, 2007)

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