Discussion of China’s innovative character has filled books and newspaper columns since Cambridge academic Joseph Needham first posed the question in the 1940s. WiC has weighed in too (see issue 76).
But for those on the ‘affirmative’ side of the debate, a bold new argument has emerged, although not one that Needham would necessarily have envisaged. In a pioneering moment in the history of cinematography, a Chinese director has made the first-ever 3D movie. Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy will be released in Hong Kong on April 14.
The Stephen Shiu Jnr-produced film follows the amorous adventures of scholar Wei Yangsheng, who has committed to a life in search of the secrets of erotic pleasure. The flick is a sequel to 1991 cult hit Sex and Zen, and is allegedly not without humour.
What has got audiences titillated is that the big screen will be showing all that extreme ecstasy in three dimensions. No doubt dedicated moviegoers will be hoping to caress some of the flesh soon to float up in front of their 3D spectacles. Shui told the South China Morning Post that it has always been his dream to turn an erotic movie into 3D. Nor was it easy. “The love scenes were very tough,” he complains. “Normally you get tired after 15 to 20 minutes, but these actors had to do it for six to eight hours a day.”
Not surprisingly the film has an adult-only rating in Hong Kong. But it will not show in mainland China itself, where censors have blocked its release. Still, according to Life News, Sex and Zen could achieve a notoriety similar to Ang Lee’s Lust Caution (see WiC2). That film did actually show in mainland China, but the censor cut so many of the sex scenes that it was jokingly renamed ‘Caution: no Lust’. Chinese tourists travelled to Hong Kong to see the uncut ‘steamy’ version.
Similarly with Sex and Zen the film has already become the talk of the Chinese web, and travel agents in Guangdong are marketing day-trips to Hong Kong to see it. Qianglong.com says two travel companies are so confident of demand they’ve pre-booked 150,000 movie theatre seats at a cost of Rmb15 million. A package on travel website GZ600.cn prices a day trip from Guangzhou to Hong Kong (coach fare, travel insurance and movie ticket) at Rmb268 ($41).
Wu Siyuan, chairman of UME International Cineplex – one of China’s biggest – is not amused at losing potential cinemagoers to rival screens in Hong Kong. Others have renewed the call for a film rating system. Currently there are no differentiated rating categories (like Adult or Parental Guidance), making it impossible for risqué material to make it onto local movie screens.
For those readers unable to drop everything and head striaght for Hong Kong, Sex and Zen will also open in Australia and South Korea this month, and in France, Italy and Russia in June.
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