Reincarnation of Golden Lotus (1989)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2014-06-17
Summary: Difficult to like
“The Reincarnation of Golden Lotus” is a tawdry tale based on Chinese mythology in which a woman who has been sexually degraded and murdered is reborn ten centuries later with some shattered memories of her last life along with a white hot hatred toward those who mistreated her and a willingness to take revenge on them. The woman is Lotus, played by Joey Wong. Wong, of course, is a devastatingly beautiful woman who is so perfectly lighted and framed by cinematographer Jingle Ma that she could stand in for Helen of Troy, Salome or Messalina.

Just before her reincarnation Lotus refuses to drink the tea of forgetfulness so she won’t be haunted by memories of her past lives. She refused so she could remember the men who abused her and sharpen her contempt for and wreak vengeance on all men. We first encounter the “new” Lotus during the Cultural Revolution in the People’s Republic. She is one of a band of little girls in ballet class that seem to be learning steps to "Red Detachment of Women" complete with prop wooden rifles--meanwhile the cultural revolution is going on just outside the classroom with books burned, slogans chanted, class enemies beaten and capitalist roaders denounced. Jumping ahead several years is noticed by the ballet school principal. Ku Feng, who has played a lot of venal apparatchiks and dirty old men (as well as every other supporting role one can think of) is the ballet school principal. He watches Lotus rehearsing a pas de deux, calls her into his office and tells her she is too tall for a ballerina but that he can get her plenty of roles if she sleeps with him. When Lotus turns him down he rapes her--a brief and horrifying scene in which the mood goes from queasy anxiety to shock and disgust in a flash. Lotus is blamed for trying to seduce the principle, branded a counterrevolutionary and kicked out of the school.

Could things get any worse for Lotus? Of course they can. Working as a sewing machine operator in a clothing factory she is attracted by a muscular young worker who is also a star on the company basketball team. When she buys him trainers with her savings Lotus is denounced by the Party cadre and once again accused of seducing senior people, in this case company supervisors. When she insists that they forced themselves on her, she is thrown to the ground, forced to "confess" and beaten.

All that the viewer knows is that she was raped by the ballet school principal but has only very unreliable testimony from Lotus and from the chorus of enemies that are always eager to denounce her. In her former life she was branded as “the slut of all time”, a label she seems to carry into the 20th century. She is accused of being a whore by everyone and goes from humiliation to humiliation, including at her wedding ceremony where her new husband’s great grandmother says that she is “too beautiful”, code for bad news, lazy and slutty—which she is.

Her husband, played by Eric Tsang playing Eric Tsang, is a sad sack but wealthy. He supports a houseful of female relatives who hate his wife, hires a hot looking chauffeur, his cousin, to drive Lotus around and spend lots of time with her in his absence and buys her anything she wants and lots of stuff she doesn’t want. Lotus is by now out of control and careens into a one night stand with a creepy designer that includes drugs, dildos, bondage and an epic walk of shame.

It is pretty clear by now that Clara Law and screenwriter Lillian Lee had painted themselves into a corner—there is simply nowhere to go after the non-stop degradation and abasement suffered by Lotus so Law finally just blew everything up with the credits rolling over a flaming explosion. This is not an easy movie to like.
Reviewer Score: 6