ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
If the Jia
family in the Chinese classic, Dream Of The Red Chamber, is seen
as a microcosm of Chinese society, then, according to Dreams Of
Eroticism (1977), it is nothing more than a hive of sexual activity
and licentious behaviour.
Old Master Zhen discovers a pouch (with a naked couple embroidered
on the front) in his garden and initiates a search into its background.
Though lorded by the Matriarch, the everyday running of the household
is left to Xifeng (Shirley Yu), who searches the servants' quarters.
Discovering a pair of hand-made shoes, she gets the maid, Siqi,
to tell her story, after the maid is stripped and then beaten
into submission. Siqi reveals her love for her cousin, Pan Youan,
who had sneaked into the garden. The two had sex in the moonlight
but were discovered by another servant. Tied up in the basement
while waiting to be further punished, Siqi is rescued by a servant
and goes home but commits suicide when her mother objects to her
relationship with her cousin.
formulaic anthology format, in the second story, Third You Sister
(Jennifer Liu Ya-ying) is in love with opera actor Liu Xianglian
(Ku Kwun-chung, who probably during the '70s, must be one of the
most hard-working supporting actors in the Shaw stable). At the
same time, Master Rong is trying to win her affections. At a dinner,
Third You Sister first behaves seductively towards Rong before
letting her anger and displeasure show. However word gets round
that Third You Sister isn't as virtuous as she seems.
The third story is a flashback to the death of Rong's wife, Madam
Qin. Old Master Zhen visits his daughter-in-law, Madam Qin, while
she is taking a bath. Lusting after her, he rapes Qin. The incident
proves too much for Qin who hangs herself. While trying to find
out the truth about his wife's death, Rong approaches Xifeng (in
spite of his bereavement he is not above having a little sex on
the side) and the two are spotted by Rong's brother, Rui (Tien
Ching). The fourth story involves Rui and his infatuation with
For reasons that are probably worth a feature on their own, this
film is made by a collective of Shaw directors and writers (who
remain anonymous) and it features more nudity and sex than expected.
Figuratively, characters recall the sex they had (Siqi with her
cousin); Liu Xianglian gets a vision of having sex with Third
You Sister; Rong dreams of having sex in a bathtub with Third
You Sister; and Rui hallucinates having sex with Xifeng.
If the sex and nudity in the dreamtime is revealing, what happens
in real time is equally so. A preview of what is to come happens
when Siqi, who couldn't sleep one night, sees two female servants
making love and then, in another room, another servant masturbating
with a cucumber. Of course, her peeping action is a direct comment
on the voyeuristic aspect of cinema; and erotic cinema to boot
but it is also a comment that in feudal China (and modern China
too), there is no such thing as privacy. And servants are stripped
and beaten with the slightest provocation.
other servant is seen masturbating with a kettle. When Liu Xianglian
comes to visit, he sees two servant girls having sex; passes by
a couple having sex on a boat and even a couple having sex on
a swing. Then, there is Master Zhen and his tai qi sex (which
bona fide tai qi master would teach those thrusting movements?)
which he practises on an acquiescent maid. The most physical sex
is when Madam Qin is raped on a table (which requires an agile
waist and a strong back). The scene recalls the Jessica Lange
sex scene in The Postman Always Rings Twice though it is doubtful
Lange could be as acrobatic! Or that intimation of oral sex which
one character calls "dragonfly skims the surface of water."
As a top draw, Shirley Yu gets to show off her assets (though
it's well into the movie). But let's not quibble over that as
the other actresses, for instance, the firm-bodied Jennifer Liu,
help to enliven the proceedings by first disrobing themselves
and then having sex with the next male actor. If this sounds like
porn, it is but because it is a Shaw movie, it is slightly less
If Pasolini had a ribald version of The Canterbury Tales, why
not Shaw with this popular Chinese classic? After all, most readers
would have liked to imagine the seamier side of life in this uptight,
traditional feudal family.
Note: The Dreams Of Eroticism DVD is not available in $ingapore.
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