Monday, December 7, 2009

Lust, Caution

One of the particular areas of 1930s/1940s fashion that interests me is the modernization of China and Japan, and their gradual adoption of Western elements. Asian women during this transitory period often had very unique and strikingly beautiful looks - they would perm their jet black hair and wear red lips and nails; or dress in a traditional cheongsam with seamed stockings, pumps, and a trenchcoat or fur over the top. Even the city itself consisted of this same startling fusion – rickshaws and Rolls Royces would pass each other on the same narrow street; and traditional food would be sold next to caf├ęs selling coffee and pastries.

Lust, Caution is a film by Ang Lee set in Japanese-occupied China during this period of cultural transformation, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in broadening their knowledge of the Forties. Often, the Eastern Fronts are overlooked in cinema (and similarly, the class I took at university focused on the European Front – thus I cannot personally vouch for the movie's accuracy in any way) so seeing another perspective like this is extremely refreshing. The film's plot revolves around a group of students involved with the resistance against the collaborationist Chinese government, and a particular female agent's attempts to seduce and take down a high ranking official. I feel I should issue a disclaimer here - it does get plenty racy, and there is some sexual violence, so if the thought seeing such things offends you may want to skip this one. It didn't get its R18+ rating for nothing. That said, it is a quietly beautiful, slow burning film and one I rather enjoyed. Not to mention the beautiful outfits! Just to give you a taste:

If you look closely, you can see seams!

It also has me seriously lusting over a mahjong bracelet like this one:

Found here on Etsy. Hint hint, Santa Claus!

Not to mention this gorgeous ring:

It's vintage Cartier! Discovered in a vault in Paris, director Ang Lee had the 6.1 carat pink diamond shipped to Shanghai specifically for the film. Isn't it gorgeous? (I also noticed that Mak Tai Tai has matched her lipstick to her nails here - something I must remember to do more often.)

The film has also inspired me to make up my overall pattern in a deep emerald cord - I don't have any pictures of this outfit, but I can assure you the colour looked gorgeous over cream blouses. I miss winter even more now!

If anyone can recommend any other films set in the 40s that feature the Eastern nations - including Russia, China and Japan - please, let me know of them in a comment! Suggestions are always much appreciated.


PaperDoll said...

I remember an old movie (1955, I think) called "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing", set in Hong Kong, that tells the story of an American reporter who falls in love with an Eurasian doctor.
I don't know if it can interest you - it's quite a schmaltzy movie - but Jennifer Jones (who plays Dr. Han Suyin) wears gorgeous dresses, and a lovely swimsuit, in it!

The Girl Can't Help It. said...

You should watch "The Painted Veil" with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. Very period dated, but the clothes are amazing.

Enken said...

How beautiful is this movie?! Also, wouldn't it be handy to just accidentally discover a stunning Cartier diamond in an old jewellery box at home... Can't think of any other movies right now but I will keep racking my brains!

Stefanie Valentine said...

I have never heard of this film but i will definitely be watching it, thanks for the recommendation. Incidentally i am after a mahjong bracelet myself!
My mum and grandparents are Chinese and i would have loved to have seen my nanna in all her splendour back in the 40s and 50s. Unfortunately both grandparents are dead so i can't speak to them about their experiences, which is a real shame. I wonder if she had dresses as lovely as the ones in the photos!

Miss Emmi said...

Paper Doll: Thanks for the recommendation! If I can get my hands on it I'll give it a shot.

The Girl Can't Help It: Thanks! I'll give it a try!

Enken: I always watch Antique Roadshow wishing that could be me... The treasures people can find!

Stefanie Valentine: Do you have any photos of your grandmother in those days? It's a shame you have no way of knowing what life was like for her in those times. I hope you enjoy the movie!

Andi B. Goode said...

I've wanted to see this movie for ages. It looks beautiful!
Also, I have that bracelet! I wear it all the time. I love it.
-Andi x

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