Who's in It:
Tony Leung, Wei Tang, Joan Chen
The Basics: In World War II, during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, a young female spy (Tang) becomes involved with a collaborator (Leung) that she's supposed to be turning over for an assassination plot. She does this by befriending his wife (Chen) and having tons of sex with him. The fact that she becomes obsessed with him sort of gets in the way of this little detail.
What's the Deal? This is from director Ang Lee, and it's as deeply emotional as Brokeback Mountain, but if you're looking for the same sort of catharsis he gave you in that movie, then you'll have a long wait. And not just because it's nearly three hours long. This is just a very restrained, very clamped down bit of filmmaking. Everything simmers under the surface, punctuated by occasional moments of sex and violence that overflow everywhere. It's the kind of movie some people will call boring, even though it's never aimless.
Yes, Yes, Lots of Sex: But honestly, if prurient interest is all you've got then you're going to end up disappointed, because Leung's character is a pretty unpleasant guy, one whose idea of romancing a lady is something most people would call rape. Their sexual relationship is where all the stuff they don't say plays itself out. So, you see all of that hence the NC-17. The sequences where the fancy wives sit around playing mah-jongg are just as fascinating for nonverbal communication.
What Other Movie It's Like: Paul Verhoeven's Black Book. Of course, Black Book is more unhinged and dangerous, but both films are about women working from the inside to tear down a system they hate while simultaneously falling for the men they've sworn to destroy.
For Lovers Of: Period detail and impeccable costume detailing. I have this one friend who's obsessed with vintage clothing, and her favorite stuff is WWII-era. She'll have a meltdown when she sees this movie. If that's your thing you will, too.