ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
a filmmaker bother to remake a film he'd already done before?
He would only do so if he has some drastically different ideas.
In Li Han-hsiang's case, it's probably because of the money -
either he was paid well to do it or he expected the film to make
a good profit.
Li had made The Golden Lotus in 1974 under the Shaw banner. The
film, based on a Chinese classic, starred the usual Shaw sexbombs
at the time - Tanny Tien Ni, Chen Ping and Hu Chin (who played
the lead character Pan Jinlian). Seventeen years later, in The
Golden Lotus: Love And Desire, instead of the lead, Hu Chin is
now the film's executive producer. But the biggest difference
between the two movies is probably the amount of nudity and sex
that is shown in this version - the Shaw movie was comparatively
highly decorous when it came to nudity.
concerns Lee Ping Er, who is attracted to playboy Xi Menqing (Tan
Lap Man, a TV actor who has appeared in a number of Category III
movies, notably with the word "lotus" in the titles). Xi already
has five wives but there's nothing to stop him from having a sixth.
Jealousy looms when the Fifth Wife feels neglected and the situation
is made worse when Ping Er (Wife No. Six) gives birth to a son.
It'd be nice to say that there is more to the story but this 1991
Taiwanese production is really nothing but an excuse to move from
one sexual encounter to another. In many ways, this is really
a guy's wet dream come true. For a start, the two lead women characters
are horny as hell. Given half a chance, they'd fondle themselves
and start masturbating on screen. Or even the elderly nursemaid,
who appears in a swoon of ecstasy (a common acting tool in this
movie) when she spies on a couple having sex. Needless to say,
lots of groaning and moaning pervade the soundtrack.
A subplot concerns a cache of sex manuals (Chinese Kamasutras
then) which the characters pour over religiously and then act
out acrobatically. But the most usual stance seems to be one where
one of the partners is tied up for some bondage sex.
who are concerned, any form of political correctness quickly goes
out the window - women are second-class citizens in this movie.
It's all right for the men to wander from bed to bed, but let
the woman do it and she is stripped and beaten. But then, the
make up leads to better sex (even for the audience as well), though
not once do the women complain about the scars or the beating
they had just received. And again, servants are no better than
slaves and treated as sex objects when the master or mistress
erotic movies have an underpinning of morality but there appears
to be none in this movie. Xi Menqing seems to have his cake and
he's happily eating it - he practically gets away with murder
and has no qualms abusing his wives and servants. So he losses
his infant son, but in an act of revenge, he brutally kills a
cat (so you animal lovers beware). Viewers who are used to seeing
such a character get his comeuppance will not find any here -
so much for any sense of justice in this feudal society.
is well known for his epic productions and the film's opening
might have hinted at something more. The film opens with a character
in period costume talking on a handphone. The camera pulls back
to reveal a film set with the director telling the cast how to
move in a street scene. The film then "begins" with the street
scene. If the filmmaker had followed this through, even if it
is a blatant remake of The French Lieutenant's Woman with a film-within-a-film
motif, the overall result might have been more interesting. On
the other hand, the film shows two men experiencing impotence
in the face of virile female sexuality - perhaps this is a damning
comment on the futility of Li's filmmaking endeavour.
As it is, continuous sex can be draining and one longs for some
sort of climax to the storyline - there is a build up but certainly
not enough pay off. There is some mambo jumbo about "emptiness
being sex" and "sex being emptiness" at the end but that touch
of Buddhism seems more like a nod to Sex And Zen than any salient
point made in the film. Where is that karmic reference when you
really needed it?
Even if The
Golden Lotus: Love And Desire is not a strict remake, Li Han-hsiang
certainly knew his classics enough to mine them for what they're
worth. Some viewers have pooh-poohed this movie for its lack of
artistry but as an erotic movie that frequently strays into the
soft-porn territory, you can certainly find worse or lesser fare
for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
The Golden Lotus: Love And Desire DVD is not available in $ingapore.
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