Spy movie begets spyware

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s latest offering, “Lust, Caution,” is racking up international film awards and steaming up silver screens around the world. His spy thriller, set in WWII-era Shanghai, features a young woman who has been recruited to seduce and assassinate a Japanese collaborator. It also features sex scenes so explicit that it received an ...

597486_071119_lustcaution_05.jpg
597486_071119_lustcaution_05.jpg

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee's latest offering, "Lust, Caution," is racking up international film awards and steaming up silver screens around the world. His spy thriller, set in WWII-era Shanghai, features a young woman who has been recruited to seduce and assassinate a Japanese collaborator. It also features sex scenes so explicit that it received an NC-17 rating in the United States. And in China, government censors threatened to yank the movie from theaters unless Lee trimmed some of the more graphic sex scenes. He complied, and now the movie has become one of China's top box office draws, bringing in 90 million yuan in only two weeks. It's tapped to become one of country's biggest hits this year.

The seven missing minutes from the Chinese version of the film has caused some moviegoers to cross the border into Hong Kong to see the uncensored version. It's also prompted many movie fans to flock, unsurprisingly, to the Internet, where they try to download uncensored versions. But pirate wannabes may instead find themselves downloading a virtual STD instead. Chinese anti-virus company Rising International Software is warning Web surfers that several hundred sites that are offering free downloads of "Lust, Caution" are embedded with viruses that can steal personal passwords of users. 

The possibility of contracting computer viruses isn't the only warning officials are issuing about the movie. Doctors in Guangdong province are advising viewers to be careful when copying some of the more adventurous sexual positions depicted in the film. Xinhuanet, the portal for the official news agency Xinhua, quoted a doctor saying,

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s latest offering, “Lust, Caution,” is racking up international film awards and steaming up silver screens around the world. His spy thriller, set in WWII-era Shanghai, features a young woman who has been recruited to seduce and assassinate a Japanese collaborator. It also features sex scenes so explicit that it received an NC-17 rating in the United States. And in China, government censors threatened to yank the movie from theaters unless Lee trimmed some of the more graphic sex scenes. He complied, and now the movie has become one of China’s top box office draws, bringing in 90 million yuan in only two weeks. It’s tapped to become one of country’s biggest hits this year.

The seven missing minutes from the Chinese version of the film has caused some moviegoers to cross the border into Hong Kong to see the uncensored version. It’s also prompted many movie fans to flock, unsurprisingly, to the Internet, where they try to download uncensored versions. But pirate wannabes may instead find themselves downloading a virtual STD instead. Chinese anti-virus company Rising International Software is warning Web surfers that several hundred sites that are offering free downloads of “Lust, Caution” are embedded with viruses that can steal personal passwords of users. 

The possibility of contracting computer viruses isn’t the only warning officials are issuing about the movie. Doctors in Guangdong province are advising viewers to be careful when copying some of the more adventurous sexual positions depicted in the film. Xinhuanet, the portal for the official news agency Xinhua, quoted a doctor saying,

Most of the sexual maneuvers in ‘Lust, Caution’ are in abnormal body positions… Only women with comparatively flexible bodies that have gymnastics or yoga experience are able to perform them. For average people to blindly copy them could lead to unnecessary physical harm.”

Perhaps when editing the movie, Lee should have renamed it “Lust, Caution, but especially Caution.”

Christine Y. Chen is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.