'Lust' not Taiwanese enough for foreign Oscar

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am

If Ang Lee's latest hit, the made-in-China spy thriller Lust, Caution, is to win an Oscar, it will have to go up against the best of Hollywood, as did his previous, made-in-America epic Brokeback Mountain, for which Lee won the best director award.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided the Taiwanese director's new film is not Taiwanese enough to represent the island in the contest for best foreign-language film. That honour goes to Chen Huai-en's Island Etude.

'The submitting country must certify that creative talent of that country exercised artistic control of the film,' the Academy's rules say. It is too late for Lust, Caution to represent anywhere else in the foreign-language category. The deadline has passed.

The decision to bar Lust, Caution - which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last month - came as a surprise to people close to the film. They told Variety Asia Online it was just as qualified as Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the martial arts epic nominated by Taiwan in 2000, which won Oscars for foreign-language film, cinematography, art direction and music.

The film was also entered for the best picture Oscar but lost to Ridley Scott's Gladiator.

'The criteria are quite inconsistent,' said the honorary president of the Hong Kong Directors Guild, Ng See-yuen.

Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai and mainland newcomer Tang Wei star in Lust, Caution.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon starred Hong Kong's Chow Yun-fat, Malaysia's Michelle Yeoh and mainland actress Zhang Ziyi.

Ng said 90 per cent of the people behind that film were Hongkongers.

Nominations for the 80th Academy Awards will be announced on January 22. The foreign-language category has a record 63 entries. Hong Kong's entry is Johnnie To Kei-fung's Exiled.

Lust, Caution is an adaptation of a short story of the same name by Chinese author Eileen Chang. It revolves around a group of patriotic students who plot to assassinate the intelligence chief in the Japanese-backed wartime Chinese government.