Looking for the careful attention to detail and confident touch of an experienced auteur for that sweeping tale of romance? These days it would seem the man to go to for just such a feat is director Ang Lee. In the past he delicately balanced comedy and period drama in his adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility; paved the way for Chinese language martial arts films to appeal to every segment of the American population with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and turned the not-widely-accepted idea of homosexual love and devotion into engaging dinner conversation with Brokeback Mountain. He’s back at it again this year, tackling the boundaries of affection during the Japanese occupation of China in the racy Lust, Caution.

Based on the short story by Chinese author Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution follows Wong Chia Chi (newcomer Tang Wei) as she loses herself to a role of a lifetime. The role–mistress to a key player in the Japanese occupation–that helped land the movie an NC-17 rating.

Proving that he can successfully adapt and mingle romance with weightier topics, Lee was honored with the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award for his 2005 adaptation of the Annie Proulx short story, Brokeback Mountain. Could more honors be in the stars with this adaptation? “Making Lust, Caution, we didn’t really ‘adapt’ Chan’s work, we reenacted it, just as her characters act and reenact their parts,” Lee says.

Whichever way you slice it, Lee has made another epic tale for the ages.