Review: Viva Erotica (1996)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

This film starts with a bang. Literally. It’s the most enthusiastic bonking scene I’ve ever witnessed: Leslie Cheung and Karen Mok going at it with a fervour that, let’s say, is more suited to a sprint than a marathon. And a fine couple they make too: Karen Mok, she of the endless legs, with Leslie Cheung, who’s so entirely delectable that he’s probably a sex-poppet for all creatures chordate (that is, possessing a spinal cord, basically. I draw the line there because I have no wish to speculate about the private lives of invertebrates).

In brief, our hero Sing (Lovely Leslie) is an out-of-work filmmaker who is asked to direct a Cat. III soft porn flick, while Mistress Mok goes mild as his cop girlfriend. Hsu Chi and Elvis Tsui Kam Kong play the stars of the movie, while Law Kar Ying provides another amusing supporting role as the producer. A variety of Hong Kong stalwarts pop up in cameo roles from time to time, and this, combined with the fact that several of the cast seem to be playing themselves or other famous names in the industry, makes this an extremely reflexive film, almost a film about a film about itself.

The main emphasis of this film is clearly the Hong Kong film industry, in all its colourful glory. We follow Sing as he deals with the choice between maintaining principles and staying unemployed, or taking the offered job and abandoning (possibly) the respect of his peers and any chance to make a serious success in the industry. Everyone he knows, and a couple he doesn’t, give their two cents worth, and Sing takes the job with extreme reservations.

What follows is a fairly good attempt at demonstrating that people who work on Cat. III movies are just like anyone else, and that it’s possible for a Cat. III to be a well-made film. Some of our preconceptions prove false: the lead starlet is reluctant to expose her body, and offers comments on what she’d do to avoid the situation (a rape scene), while the leading man is a family man rather than a sleaze.

The scenes that make this film sparkle, however, are those portraying Sing’s reveries. One in particular, set on a soccer field, has a marvellous balance between remembered childhood humiliations and comedy. Said balance is entirely ruined by the diverting sight of Leslie Cheung in a fairly tight soccer outfit. Lordy lordy lordy.

In summary, not a perfect film but one with some extremely amusing scenes. Plus, of course, the opportunity to see a lot of Hsu Chi, if that rings your bells.

7.5 Flaming Film Cannisters out of 10.
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