Ang Lee's new spy thriller "Lust, Caution," has taken a remarkable 40 million yuan (5.4 million U.S. dollars) at Chinese mainland box offices in its first four days, proving to be a hit despite significant cuts to meet mainland censorship requirements.
The film opened on the mainland on Nov. 1. "It is possible that the movie's box office would top 100 million yuan given the current fervor among the audience," said a source with the China Film Group Corporation, the mainland distributor.
Set during World War II in Shanghai, "Lust, Caution", starring by novice mainland actress Tang Wei and Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai, is about a sexually charged relationship between an undercover female student activist and the Japanese-allied intelligence chief.
"The movie has so far had the best box office returns of all the movies shown in our theatre over the past three months," said Chen Ji, a manager with the Oriental New Century Theatre in Beijing.
Chen said the movie had reaped 500,000 yuan for his theatre over the past five days.
He said the box office takings lagged behind Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower" shown at the end of last year, which brought in more than 700,000 yuan in five days for his theatre.
"But still, 'Lust, Caution' is excellent in terms of market performance considering that it is a love story and its target audience might be smaller than martial arts blockbusters or war epics," Chen said.
Zhang's "Curse of the Golden Flower" earned 250 million yuan, topping the mainland box office in 2006.
Lee's movie, called "Se, Jie" in Chinese, has been a hot topic among the mainland media and the public long before its official screening here due to its bold sex scenes. The movie has been given the restrictive NC-17 label in the United States, banning viewers under 17.
In order to get approval for release on the mainland, Lee himself cut about seven minutes from the movie. Despite being shorn of some of its sexual scenes, the film's mainland version still won acclaim from most audiences.
"It is a pity that the film was cut, but I think the cutting doesn't affect my understanding of the story. It still has its strength," said a viewer surnamed Liu.
"The movie is typical of Ang Lee's style, reserved but powerful. It gives a vivid and in-depth description of the complicated feelings between men and women," another viewer surnamed Meng said.
The film was voted 4.5 out of five points by 3,017 Internet users, according to a poll conducted by the movie channel at www. sina.com.
"Lust, Caution" has proved to be a box office success in Taiwanand Hong Kong since it opened in September.
It won the top Golden Lion prize at the Venice Film Festival in September, Lee's second win in Venice following "Brokeback Mountain" in 2005.