HONG KONG — To address the elephant in the room, 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy certainly delivers the goods as far as quantity of sex goes. But the quality will leave some cold. Director Christopher Sun has opted for a lot of rubbing, pressing and bouncing, and the soundtrack is heavy with breathless, whiny squeaks and squeals from the girls, leaving one to wonder if anyone involved in the production has ever engaged in any form of sexual activity with real females.
Beating Italian soft-core pornographer Tinto Brass’s 3D remake of Caligulatothe screen by several months, if not years, this reboot of the Michael Mak erotic cult classic, Sex and Zen as Extreme Ecstasy, comes with a curiosity factor that will take it far. Extreme Ecstasy has reasonably high production values despite its modest budget, getting maximum, uh, bang for its buck. It’s a little bit of naughty Chinese eroto-comedy supported by some respectable period sets (both films were based on classic novel The Carnal Prayer Mat).
Chances distributors anywhere on the globe won’t get caught up with the idea of 3D “porn” will be low. Advance buzz is high if the packed Filmart industry screening is any indicator, but ultimately Extreme Ecstasy will live and die by how audiences—including distributors—react to some of the film’s more unsavory elements. Nonetheless the novelty should result in moderate releases in most territories.
Cleaving closely to the playful tone of the original film initially, Extreme Ecstasy starts well. The first half is a funny and almost picaresque adventure following arrogant scholar Wei Yangsheng (Hayama Hiro) on his quest to become a better lover as a newlywed to Tie Yuxiang (Leni Lan). His reasons have to do with the couple’s poor sex life.
After the collapse of his marriage, his journey takes him to a den of iniquity reigned over by randy Prince of Ning (Tony Ho suitably hammy at first) and his tag team of sexual dynamos (Hara Saori and Suou Yukiko). Visiting the Elder of Bliss (an amusing Vonnie Lui), a male master in the bedroom arts disguised as a buxom woman, Wei is told his problems stem from his tiny penis. So he goes looking for a transplant to help him along. Now hugely endowed and bringing new meaning to the term “donkey show,” he gets, uh, cocky and spirals into an empty, emotionless campaign of carnality. That’s when his troubles really begin.
But the movie’s not pornographic in the traditional sense; this is purely “R” material. The 3D is reasonably immersive and the film blessedly keeps the in-your-face boobies and other body parts to a minimum. Although including last summer’s Piranha 3D, the floating schlong has officially become the cinema’s newest sight gag.
After about an hour of Wei’s amusing escapades, however, things take a turn for the decidedly vicious. After divorcing her husband for his dalliances, Tie is raped by what seems to be a local handyman, sending her into her own miserable abyss. That she is raped is bad enough, but the fetishizing of it — really, just keep raping her and eventually she’ll like it — is the real issue. Add to that scads of sexual violence against women (for the most part), endless torture devices (is that a vibrator or a giant drill bit used on Tie?) and Ning literally killing a woman with sex, the overall tone becomes intensely unpalatable. Given Extreme Ecstasy’s ultimate message that “All you need is love” and the vindication of the value of emotional connection in intercourse, the road the filmmakers take to get there is perplexing to say the least.
Hong Kong Filmart
Production companies: One Dollar Productions, Local Production
Cast: Hayama Hiro, Leni Lan, Hara Saori, Suou Yukiko, Vonnie Lui, Tony Ho, Tenky Tin
Director: Christopher Sun
Screenwriter: Stephen Shiu, Stephen Shiu Jr., Mark Wu
Producer: Stephen Shiu, Stephen Shiu Jr.
Director of photography: Jimmy Wong
Production designer: Tony Yu
Costume designer: Cindy Cheung
Editor: Azrael Chung
Sales: One Dollar Distribution Ltd.
No rating, 118minutes