ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
and American filmmakers were not hesitant to portray sex in their
films in the late '60s, then their Asian counterparts, especially
the Japanese, were not slow to get off the mark and Japanese triple-X
films (that's how they were advertised locally) were not something
out of the ordinary.
But Hongkong's Shaw Brothers, already a major player in the film
industry, did not follow suit immediately as they were then milking
their sword-fighting (wu xia) cash cow. Things changed with the
success of Li Han-Hsiang's The Warlord in 1972. Set in revolutionary
China, the comedy about a corrupt warlord made a star out of comedian
Michael Hui though the film's brief moments of nudity must have
helped to flesh out its popularity. The next couple of years saw
director Li, until then known more for his classical works like
Love Eterne, enter what is usually seen as his "commercial" period.
Warlord, Li followed up with Legends Of Lust (1972), Illicit Desire
(1973), Sinful Confession (again with Michael Hui) and Golden
Lotus - the latter two released in 1974. Forbidden Tales Of Two
Cities was released in 1974 and, compared to the other films,
is surprisingly restrained.
in Macau, with its casinos and gambling houses, the film starts
off by showing how Hongkongers spend their leisure hours and lose
their fortunes in Macau. Underneath the glitter, the film is also
about how much of a gamble love can be. Made up of two separate
stories, the movie however feels as if the director had a spare
set and a cast that is waiting for the next big project to roll.
The first story features sexpots Hu Chin and Chen Ping. Set at
the turn of the century, Hu Chin is married to antiques dealer
Ku Feng while Chen Ping is married to Wang Hsia. Being neighbours,
the virile-looking Ku Feng (unlike the roles the character actor
plays in other films) has his eyes on Chen Ping while Wang Hsia
has his on Hu Chin. Before the story gets to show how the men
get what they want, it detours into the area of "oral" sex (involving
a piece of jade mouthpiece) that probably worked better in the
script than on film.
In the second story, Shek Sau is a bookie who takes on a bet that
he can woo socialite Tanny Tien Ni in half a month. Part of the
fun in such films is watching the guy go through the paces of
seducing the woman, with whatever wiles necessary. Shek Sau is
a bit on the morose side and doesn't get to do much to court Tanny
and when Tanny turns up at his room, the viewer tends to ask,
"What, so fast?" And when the couple decides to get an apartment,
the two find four shackles hanging from the ceiling in the master
bedroom. Here, Shek spins a tale about an old man who gets a new
lease of life after meeting a woman into bondage sex.
be tempted to say that the "wow" factor in this movie is not the
amount of nudity involving Hu Chin or Chen Ping but rather how
upfront bondage sex is. At the same time, the film also manages
to poke fun at the general perception of bondage sex - the servants
hovering at the door of their master's bedroom commenting on what
they think is happening inside: "It's just husband and wife having
a fight. How come it sounds like they're fighting with robbers?"
"They've been at it since last night. At the Old Master's age,
how can he possibly take it?"
If viewers are gambling on more visual treats, then the Shek Sau-Tanny
segment, which is practically sex-free, is a letdown. Overall,
there is just barely enough skin and sex to qualify this as a
Shaw erotic film but generally viewers will find they have been
short-changed, regardless of the S&M theme. This is a movie
which tries to show some kind of link between Hongkong and Macau
and, ironically, it is the connection between places, time and
people that is lacking. As it is, the film does not resonate and,
like the shackles in the bedroom, things are just dangling in
The Forbidden Tales Of Two Cities DVD is not available in $ingapore.