ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
Chu Yuan must have surprised and shocked Asian movie audiences
when he not only had two women kissing but having sex on screen
in Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan in 1972. Twelve
years on, two women having sex on screen isn't such a big deal
Shaw Brothers' erotic movies could be said to have bloomed and
now were heading towards their twilight years so An Amorous Woman
Of Tang Dynasty (1984) could be seen as part of the last-minute
attempts to cash in on the genre. What the movie has going for
it is a relatively fresh face in Pat Ha and New Wave writer/director
Pat Ha shot
to prominence in Patrick Tam's New Wave movie Nomad (1982) but
it is likely that she became well-known after An Amorous Woman.
Ha is not exactly a statuesque beauty nor is she as voluptuous
as Shirley Yu. But in An Amorous Woman, she is so lovingly photographed
she hasn't looked as gorgeous since. Sure there is a good bit
of skin to be seen - Ha appears in the nude in several scenes
- but mostly she is decorously covered (it is the supporting cast
and bit players who bare all, almost). Still, Ha is considered
daring to take on a role that might be seen as controversial.
Ha is poet
Yu Yuan Gi, the literary genius of Changan city, who decides to
enter a Taoist monastery so that she can lead an independent life.
Out swimming one evening, she meets swordsman Tsui Pok Hau (Alex
Man) and the two begin a steamy affair.
Alex Man could have been selected for this movie based on his
hunky looks and his fiery sex scene with Cherie Chung in Hong
Kong Hong Kong the previous year. As if to make up for lost time,
Man has enough sex here to last several movies. The coupling does
not last as the swordsman has a wander lust and Ha is soon left
on her own. In frustration, she turns on her maid but the two
are forced out of the monastery when they are found having sex.
may be up to the challenge of her role, she is let down by the
character she plays which isn't fully fleshed out. At first, she
appears independent (as the role demands) - this is a woman who
refuses to accept handouts but is willing to use her body to earn
her upkeep (she hires herself out to a man who is into whipping
women to get his high).
this "modern" outlook does not mesh with the proprietary manner
in which she treats her maid Lu Chiao (Monica Lam) - on the surface
the poet says she does not look at Lu Chiao as a maid but as a
girl. The movie would have been more interesting if there is a
real attraction between the two but there is nothing there except
the physical sex to titillate the senses. As it is, the maid is
someone for Ha to use. Secondly, Pat Ha's character needs further
refinement if the audience wants to understand her crime of passion
when Lu Chiao refuses to abort her baby and intends to return
to her village to settle down.
On an even
more simplistic level, the viewer ends up asking: who does this
"modern" woman really want to seduce - the swordsman; swordmaker
Auyong; the Taoist priest who is attracted to the maid; the maid
herself - and why is she doing all these things? Or is it because
as a "modern" woman, she is expected to take the lead in the seduction
process? And then, if the idea of sex between two women is so
controversial and taboo-breaking, why isn't it more strongly condemned?
In fact, the opposite happens - under the hands of a band of robbers,
the poet and her maid had to act out their "crime" in public.
Fong tried to create a tragic heroine but a tragic heroine can
only arise depending on how she acts and reacts to difficult situations.
Ha's Yu Yuan Gi seems to float through her tribulations and nothing
either scars her or intrudes into her consciousness. Outwardly
she emotes but (tragically) those feelings never resonate with
Visually, the film looks like an exquisitely photographed Japanese
movie (Pat Ha has her hair done in Japanese style; the characters
sit on tatami-floor and the flute on the soundtrack recalls a
kabuki play). It is no surprise that the film won the Best Art
Direction award at the 1984 Golden Horse Awards. Interestingly,
if the sex in the film is forceful, the action sequences are equally
as brutal, featuring more beheadings than some so-called swordfighting
Fong would script another foray into arthouse cinema with Temptation
Of A Monk. Directed by Clara Law, the film - much like An Amorous
Woman - relied on artistic design; titillating visuals and a promise
of great sex but let down by a weak screenplay.
Fans of An
Amorous Woman might want to track down a rumoured three-hour Taiwanese
print of the film but then again who really needs to sit through
The Amorous Woman Of Tang Dynasty DVD is not available in $ingapore.
Other Asian Values DVD Reviews:
Hong Kong Hong Kong
Kiss Of Death
Forbidden Tales Of Two Cities
The Call Girls