3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
Starring: Hiro Hayama, Leni Lan, Saori Hara, Tony Ho Wah-chiu
Directed by: Christopher Sun Lap-key
Category: III (Cantonese)
Extreme, most definitely, but ecstasy is in as short supply as Zen in this often hilarious soft-core exploration of fantasy sex in the ancient Middle Kingdom.
Producer Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, with his son, executive producer Stephen Shiu Jnr, revisits terrain initially explored two decades ago in his Sex and Zen (1991), Hong Kong's most famous excursion into Category III costumed profligacy.
For better or for worse, it is exactly as anticipated. The images may be 3-D, but in terms of plot and characterisations, the romp barely goes beyond the one-dimensional. Disproving Mae West's adage that 'too much of a good thing can be wonderful', the nearly two-hour-long odyssey is so padded with excess footage that it threatens to stifle what is, in effect, a 70-minute camp classic waiting to break free. One leaves the theatre wishing the editor's shears had been applied with as much gusto as those wielded by the scenario's buffoonish surgeons, who, in one of the movie's brightest episodes, replace a Lothario's microscopic organ with an appendage of a more equine variety. It is in such sequences that director Christopher Sun and scriptwriters (Shiu Snr and Mark Wu Yiu-fai) exhibit an appealing tongue-in-cheek humour that brings vitality to the debauched escapades of scholar Wei Yangsheng (Hiro Hayama).
The indecorous fun is chiefly evident in the first half, beginning with Wei's courtship and marriage to Tie Yuxiang (Leni Lan), a Taoist priest's gorgeous daughter. The two initially shy virgins are less than satisfied by the ardour that ensues in the nuptial chamber. His sexual appetite awakened, Wei becomes chief acolyte of the Prince of Ning (Tony Ho), whose orgiastic lifestyle takes stereotypical male fancies and multiplies them by 10. The film's tone turns increasingly dark in Ning's lair, with scenes of sadomasochism and rape that detract from what was hitherto a buoyant mood. Things fare better when the outrageousness is leavened with laughs, as with the vulgar pseudo-literary dialogue and such props as a giant phallus-shaped fountain and a wagon wheel employed in a manner never before attempted on screen. Tony Yu Hing-wah's art direction and Cindy Cheng's innovative costume design add considerably to the visual appeal. Jimmy Wong Kam-shing's 3-D cinematography is predictably gimmicky. Little would be lost seeing the movie in two dimensions, apart from the opening titles, a painterly passage displaying a subtle beauty absent from the production as a whole.
For all the naked breasts, frenzied gyrations and rapturous moans, the proceedings are devoid of real passion. Perhaps the most ironic element is the script's ostensible moral that sincere love is more satisfying than wanton promiscuity, a concept which, if truly put into practice, would cause ticket sales to go flaccid.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy opens today