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色情男女 (1996)
Viva Erotica

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Could and should have been better

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/18/2006

Just about any art form uses itself as a subject and movies are no exception. Movies about movies have been around for a long time—a subdivision of this genre is the movie that is structured around and given shape by telling the story of a specific film being made. Truffaut’s “Day for Night” is a classic example as is the independent “Living in Oblivion”, by Tom DiCillo; less successful was Woody Allen’s “Hollywood Ending”. “Centre Stage” a touchstone of modern Hong Kong filmmaking is the story not only of Yuen Ling Yuk but also a faux-documentary on the making of “Centre Stage” which is itself bounded by the “real” movie.

So “Viva Erotica” wasn’t breaking any new ground although it does a good job in presenting the dilemma of a talented but unsuccessful director who has to chose between making Triad backed pornography or not working in film at all. It touches briefly on themes of artistic integrity, the redeeming power of love and the necessity for the true artist to constantly strive for perfection even in an imperfect world. It also has a lot of scenes of Shu Qi naked, nearly naked or topless often while having simulated sex on camera.

Both Shu Qi as the insanely luscious Miss Mango and Leslie Cheung as Sing, the beleaguered film director, are perfectly cast. The struggling artist, yearning to express himself in the face of a hostile or indifferent world is a role that Leslie Cheung often played to perfection. As Ms. Mango, Shu Qi’s bad girl flippancy is only slightly muted by her desire for a normal life and her smoldering sexuality is never far from the surface.

Sing is lucky enough to be surrounded by a very skilled crew who are willing to do anything for him, actors who respond perfectly to his ideas on how to approach their parts and, most importantly, the noblest producer who has ever been involved in a film. The crew refuses to work when Sing is temporarily canned; both Ms. Mango and Elvis Tsui’s character (billed only as “Bald Porn Actor”) are transformed by Sing’s off the cuff discussion of using sense and emotional memory to create the acting space they need and when Sing approaches Paul Chun’s Triad Film Producer to fire producer Ah Chung (delightfully underplayed by Law Kar-Ying) he finds that Ah has already accepted all the blame the difficulties in the shoot.

Both the Triad Film Producer and May, Sing’s girlfriend played by Karen Mok, present problems that need to be solved—they are the characters who drive the action when “Viva Erotica” pulls back from the set of the porn film they are making. Sing can’t control either of them—the TFP because he has all the money in the project and he is a tough guy, May because she is beautiful, intelligent and (seemingly) not willing to take second place to this half-baked movie. Paul Chun is properly oily, uncouth and domineering—his character is easy to have enough of and we aren’t sorry to see him go. May decides that what she ultimately loves in Sing is that he makes films—he has a artistic vision and is willing to sacrifice a lot (although not May) for it.

The basis for the last shot in “Viva Erotica”, in which the entire crew goes about their tasks while naked in order to spare the actors and actresses the embarrassment of being the only people on the set without clothing, was used five years later in the Yvan Attal’s film “My Wife is an Actress”. In the later movie Charlotte Gainsbourgh, hesitant to do a nude scene, walks onto the set in her robe to find everyone there already naked. Not sure where else this particular bit of business shows up but it is funny and effective.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Mikestar*
Date: 11/15/2002
Summary: A self-reflexive parody

'Viva Erotica', co-directed by Derek Yee & Law Chi-leung is effectively a self-reflexive parody of the nature of Hong Kong film-making. In an industry renowned for its exploitative satires and sequals, this variant achieves a unique and contemplative status.

The true value of the film comes from a mixture of tempered direction and intertextuality. The casting is insightfull, with Leslie Chueng, Law Ka-ying and Hsu Chi (in the film that made her a commercial star) all well-suited to their roles.

The plot effectively follows Sing, a frustrated film director whose career is on a downward spiral. Resorting to make a Category III film (soft-porn) for a dubious triad figure, Sing's progress and creativity is constantly hindered by pressure of others (actors, producers, triads). He perseveres however, determined to finish his film regardless of its quality or morality.

What makes the film noteworthy is its genuine focus on the dichotomy of artistic freedom and social/commercial factors. In the fickle and populist environment of Hong Kong cinema it is not difficult to see why a film like this achieved critical acclaim.

Along with its inter-industry refrences (including a swipe at Wong Jing and Wong Kar-wai)and casting (Both Shu Qi & Elvis Tsui are recognised Cat III figures) the film provides an unsentimental, behind-the-scenes perspective of a celebrated, but equally cruel industry.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/07/2002
Summary: Pretty good actually!!

i don't remember too much about this movie, but i found it quite good. It looks at characters and even PORN stars have families. OK thats obvious, but the end result of the movie was quite funny. Well i'll give this, one what little i remember.......


Reviewed by: future113
Date: 08/08/2001
Summary: good movie but dont expect it to be xxx

A joy to watch, funny momemts and some nice scenes w/ HSU chi.
Rate it: 8.3 out of 10

Reviewed by: shelly
Date: 12/09/1999

A frustrating movie to deal with: some brilliant bits, and somereally awful bits, all jumbled together. The best parts come from this film's self-referential quality: it's a movie about movie-making; specifically, the story of Sing (Leslie Cheung), a HK movie director who, after a string of flops, is forced to resort to making a pornographic film. Leslie's imagination is hyperactive and cinematic: this movie shines when depicting his flights of fancy as spectacularly rendered film episodes. Yee and his cinematographer Jingle Ma romp freely through every effect, lighting trick, and swoopy camera movement they can think of, and the results are delightful. Less delightful are the film's three "serious" erotic scenes. The first answers the movie's burning question in the first 10 seconds (yes, you see Leslie -- NAKED!). And the final one (set, curiously, to "Uneasy', a Faye Wong instrumental track from the album "Impatience"[Fuzao]), intended to be the film-with-a-film's triumphantly arty finale, is a laboured, merely tacky Calvin Klein-style montage. A serious film about eroticism-in-film needs to do better than this in its own sex scenes. Leslie's performance, like the movie, is uneven: alternately committed and disengaged. Tsui Kam-Kong and Hsu Chi, as the two porn stars, have their moments: in key scenes, each manages to humanize a seemingly broadly-sketched character. Film references abound, from clever (cameos of gloomy unemployed directors) to frivolous (Lau Ching-Wan as an extremely disenchanted filmmaker named "Derek Yee"). And Yee takes a stand in the Wong Jing vs. Wong Kar-Wai polemic (is there a serious HK film in 1996 that hasn't felt the need somehow to refer to Wong Kar-Wai??). Plenty of amusement value, with bucketfuls of technique to admire. But Derek Yee doesn't seem to have fixed on the tone he wanted for this movie: ironic detachment? frank self-exposure? naive idealism? You can't have all three.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: kjohnson
Date: 12/09/1999

It's great! I had to go see it once I heard that Derek Yee directed it. However, he's only the co-director it and it's totally different than any of his other films. This is a comedy about an art film director who has been out of work for so long that he agrees to make a category 3 sex film just to make a living. Leslie Cheung plays the director and Law Ka Ying plays his producer. The triad boss who finances their film is played by Paul Chun Pui, who played the uncle in C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie and the father in Full Throttle. The very first shot you see in the movie is Leslie's naked butt -- do you need any more inducement than that? The film is excellently made and filled with so many great little touches and in-jokes that it would take pages to discuss them all. It will certainly reward repeated viewings. The most important thing though is that the film is hilarious. The soundtrack, which is out on CD, seemed worth getting, too.