ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
considered Sinful Confession (1974) as Li Han-hsiang's most indulgent
movie, where vulgarity, cynicism and eroticism all vie for attention.
What also caught the viewers' fancy is probably the segment where
Li appears as himself in the role of a cheat getting a free meal
out of bumbling/novice conman Michael Hui, and the witty repartee
from Li is a joy to behold.
But as a
comedy, Sinful Confession does not really deliver the laughs.
But it is still a clever piece of film. Like House Of 72 Tenants,
Sinful Confession is mainly situated within a row of buildings
that houses brothels, love nests, disco, martial arts training
rooms, gambling dens and even a place for catching a blue film
or two. Allowing himself a signature moment, the opening segment
with Michael Hui (a writer/film critic/DJ and racetrack commentator)
looking for some cheap action through his telescope. With the
shots skilfully panning from one window to another, they certainly
show the assured hand of the director. With hardly a word said,
the moving images tell what kind of person the Hui character is,
the various people he will interact with and the potential situations
he will encounter. Of course, within the voyeuristic motif, it's
also a chance to allow viewers that important glimpse of naked
viewer can take a breather, in steps one of the tenants, (brother)
Ricky Hui, who spies a young woman hanging out a pair of red undies.
Quickly, Ricky snatches the undies and, moving behind a door,
gives himself a powerful sniff and presumably a handjob. It would
have been a different movie had this kinkiness continued. Unfortunately,
the opening story (in a loose anthology format) has Michael Hui
falling for the charms of an anonymous telephone caller - who
is assumed, at first, to be Shaw sexbomb Hu Chin (Hu appears as
herself in this segment and as another character called Seventh
Aunt for the rest of the movie). A critique of movie critics who
are powerful because of the publications they work for and not
how knowledgeable they are, one of the film's big laughs must
be Hui being gang-raped after pleading ignorance to the fine use
of butter in Last Tango In Paris.
in the Shaw movies, does come across as a somewhat sleazy slimeball
and this is an area where he shines. In the second story, Hui
is a doctor whose patients are mostly the rich and the famous.
One day, the vivacious Pai Hsiao-man drops in for a check-up.
(For the viewers' benefit), Pai insists on an injection in her
buttocks which the doctor readily agrees. At this point, it is
not certain who is having more fun - Pai, who seems to groan ecstatically
in spite of the pain of the injection, or the doctor. On another
occasion, she visits the doctor saying she has breast cancer and
insists that the doctor give her a hands-on examination. Finally,
she invites the doctor to her home, which also gives viewers a
chance to examine Pai's full-bodied assets. Of course, nothing
comes free (which is totally in line with director Li's train
of thought) and the doctor is blackmailed for his dalliance.
story has Michael Hui acting as a boatman whose boat is used by
couples and prostitutes who need some space for themselves. One
of his customers is Hu Chin (Seventh Aunt) who gets him a job
as a general worker in the brothel run by Paul Chang Chung. Coming
across as a comedy of manners, the simple Hui is first accosted
by a Caucasian woman staying in the brothel (she wants a younger
man and Hui fits the bill) but flatly refuses the offer. After
discovering an attempt by a rival gang who wants to take over
the establishment, Hui gets a promotion but his losses at the
racetracks lead to him embezzling the outfit. After a chance encounter
with conman Ku Feng, Hui thinks he can pull off a simple con,
only to get conned by a master - the film director himself!
made four movies with the renowned Li Han-hsiang at Shaw Brothers,
the last being Sinful Confession. Before he ventured into movies,
Hui was already a well-known host/comedian on Hongkong television
and even if films such as The Warlord (1972) were hugely successful,
one can guess at the unhappiness he must have felt being restricted
by the dictates of the movies he starred in.
Hui has the
kind of deadpan look that works well in comedies. Over the years,
he has mastered the kind of look/role that, according to film
critic Law Kar, shows Hui being "good at manipulating others and
always falling victim to his own designs." But for Hui, the projected
image may not be enough. Hui has a fine voice, which has become
a hallmark of Hongkong comedy cinema.
While Karl Mark provided the vocals for Hui in The Warlord (a
forgiveable crime since the Warlord was a Northerner), subsequent
voicings (and especially if they are dubbed in Mandarin) do no
justice to Hui's talent. But what Hui has learnt working with
Li is probably a chance to hone his comic timing. As an acting
vehicle of Hui, Sinful Confession is par for the course. But within
the erotic oeuvre of Li Han-hsiang (or even within his entire
filmography), Sinful Confession is revealing in his attitude towards
film criticism, his command of film language and his playful take
on what essentially a film director is - a conman!
The Sinful Confession DVD is not available in $ingapore.
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