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TAIPEI (Reuters) - Ang Lee's steamy "Lust, Caution" trotted off as the big winner on Saturday at the 2007 Golden Horse awards, the most coveted Chinese-language film prizes, picking up seven honors including best director and best film.
Despite its low profile in the West, the Golden Horse is a spectacular occasion for the Chinese-speaking world, with top talent from Taiwan, Hong Kong and China turning out each year for the red-carpet event in Taipei.
"Lust, Caution," the favorite going into the star-studded event, also helped Lee win the award for outstanding Taiwanese filmmaker of the year.
"This is for the lack of respect that Taiwan has gotten in the past," Lee said backstage, after getting the outstanding Taiwanese filmmaker award. "My point of view, my style are all from Taiwan. So I'm very much representing Taiwan."
"Lust" also won best leading actor honors for Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu Wei.
"Lust," Lee's most prominent Chinese-language film since "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival, and had the advantage of much stronger publicity than its rivals.
The awards feature mostly films from Taiwan and Hong Kong. In addition to Lee and Leung, luminaries on this year's list included Hong Kong film star Aaron Kwok and China-born Joan Chen, who burst on to the movie scene in Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" in 1987.
Chen returned to the limelight at this year's Golden Horses, picking up the best leading actress award for her role in "The Home Song Stories."
Pop star Jay Chou's directorial debut "Secret" also did well, winning awards for best original song and visual effects, as well as the outstanding Taiwanese film of the year.
This year's show was also marked by controversy when two mainland Chinese films "Tuya's Marriage" and "Blind Mountain," were submitted by film makers, only to be forced to withdraw later.
China, which has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, doesn't allow its movies to compete, though co-productions between Chinese and foreign houses are allowed.
Cultural exchanges have increased across the Taiwan Strait in the last decade, but political relations have been icy during the seven-year tenure of President Chen Shui-bian, whose Democratic Progressive Party favors independence.
"Lust, Caution," about a Chinese woman tasked with killing a Japanese collaborator in Shanghai during World War Two, has also been the subject of controversy, with some decrying it for being too long and others critical of its graphic sex scenes.
The film drew additional attention when China said it would cut some scenes before screening it there.
Despite its success to date, Taiwan was prohibited from submitting "Lust" for the Academy Awards foreign film category after the Academy ruled its cast was too international.
Lee said he was not optimistic about the film's chances in the next year's other Academy Award categories, as the film has not been very well received in the United States, in part due to its explicit sexual content, resulting in an adults-only rating.
Reporting by Doug Young; editing by Andrew Roche