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西廂艷譚 (1997)
Romance of the West Chamber

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 10/29/2009
Summary: A bit different than expected

The 1997 Category III version of “Romance of the West Chamber” is surprising because unlike most of its kind there is the basis for a real movie beneath the heavy breathing. While it is certainly a wank-worthy undertaking—both female leads are talented pornographic performers: quite attractive, almost convincing during simulated sex (solo or with a partner) and willing to work hard. Geung Ga-Ling, who plays Hung the scheming but good hearted servant, looks a bit off in a few of the Category III scenes because no matter what she is doing she keeps her toes pointed. This is generally good advice since it seems to extend one’s legs and keeps the appropriate muscles taut but was hard to ignore once I noticed it.

There are the usual Category III themes: women are afraid of sex until they have it and then are insatiable, even if the first time was a rape; what is arousing for men—especially touching a woman’s breasts—is equally arousing for a woman; only young and beautiful people (or Elvis Tsui) have sex. The structure of the story that supports the sexy cavorting could be (and has been) the basis for a real—or at least not Category III—film. The palace/monastery is in danger of being overrun by a large group of bandits who demand that Ann-Ann, the princess, be surrendered to them as the price of their leaving. Hung the wily servant who is really the brains behind the entire operation suggests that if someone can defeat the besiegers that he be rewarded with Ann-Ann’s hand in marriage and become the heir. How this differs from being handed over to the bandits isn’t discussed although Ann-Ann doesn’t have a choice either way. She is simply a prize for which male wins the battle.

Cheng, a young scholar on his way to Beijing, has stopped at the palace/monastery—terrible timing arriving about twelve hours before the bad guys surround the place—happens to know General Whitehorse whose troops are encamped nearby. A young man is tasked with sneaking through the bandit’s lines to get word to the general. It turns out that she is a young woman pretending to be a man so she can stay at the monastery part of the compound which allows another sex scene involving an actress other than the two leads. She is captured and raped but keeps her wits about her during her ordeal and kills her attacker. She also apparently gets through to the general who arrives, slaughters the bandits and leaves. While it would make sense for General Whitehorse to be the savior and therefore the bridegroom in the wedding, the logic of the film dictates that it is Cheng.

The prime minister’s wife (Old Madam) then reneges on the deal, telling Cheng that since he is a commoner he can’t marry Ann-Ann and should be happy with being allowed to stay at the palace/monastery. He isn’t but Hung maneuvers everyone so that Cheng and the princess wind up in bed. When this is discovered the prime minister’s wife is about to administer a beating but the silver-tongued Hung not only convinces her to spare the rod but also that it was Old Madam’s fault. A compromise is reached; Cheng is sent to the capital to take the exams. If he passes and wins an office he gets to return and marry the princess. If he doesn’t pass then he should just keep going.

He passes with highest honors but his letter about the success arrives at the same time as Ann-Ann’s noble suitor who had been away taxing farmers or whipping peasants. Enter Chunto, played by Teresa Mak, whose presence is the only reason I watched this film. She is a scheming bitch, likes to gossip and is eager to hurt those around her. She must drown puppies for fun, since she is simply mean for the sake of being mean. She comes up with the not very clever idea of spreading the word that Cheng has not only won a high office but has married a daughter of a very powerful noble. So the wedding will go on but with a substitute bridegroom—they just need to get it performed and consummated before Cheng arrives from the capital. They don’t—Hung foils that—and Cheng shows up, tells the gathered family that he hasn’t married anyone and so wins Ann-Ann.

So in addition to the sex scenes “Romance of the West Chamber” has class conflict, dynastic troubles, a rousing battle scene, scheming servants, depraved bandits and stupid nobles. Which doesn’t make it any “better” than other Category III raunch-fests but makes it a bit different than others.

Elvis Tsui is barely in the movie--he gets things in motion in the beginning and then comes back to stand around and be amazed at the goings-on toward the end. Teresa Mak has two good scenes when she is trying to derail the marriage of Ann-Ann with Cheng. Otherwise she just walks on occasionally to tell the prime minister's wife something.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 02/05/2001
Summary: Pretty awful

Quite disappointing. I was expecting at least a lushly photographed period porn with lots of skin, especially since this movie shares some of the same actors as EGS-Perfect Match.

But alas, the production values appear to be much lower here. The film seems to have been shot at nearly video quality, which means that seeing it on the big screen is likely to be about as good as a video (terrible shame).

Some riveting dialogue : "I know you're kill".

And the acting, gawd. The word that comes to mind is "stagey". Exaggerated movements and mostly slow delivery of lines make it appear to be a photographed stage play. God, it was painful to watch even the normally-good-value Tsui Kam Kong manage not much at all.

Judging by the number of previous versions, this is a classic and popular love story. The plot details left me a little puzzled, with repeated references to "antithesis" and "the culprits".

The sex/love scenes beginning near the one-hour mark were quite good, even a little erotic, but is was too little to late.

Watch Erotic Ghost Story II again instead !

Reviewer Score: 2