by Wade Major
Page 1 of 7

clectic, exotic, eccentric and, of course, erotic. No question about it -- the Asian approach to cinematic eroticism is anything but derivative of Hollywood. Far from homogenous, however, cinematic eroticism in Asian and Asian-themed films, dominated primarily by Hong Kong and Japanese product, underscores a noteworthy diversity of perspective with regard to sexual attitudes and taboos throughout the Orient.
     What is common to the Asian approach, however, is a markedly non-Western proclivity for pairing eroticism with unconventional subject matter that ranges from comical to disturbing to surreal to mystical to downright bizarre and perverse. Either way, it's an approach that remains uniquely and unmistakably Asian.

1. SEX AND ZEN (1989)
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Original Title: Yuk Po Tuen Ji Tau Ching Bo Gam
Director: Michael Mak Tong-Kit
Cast: Amy Yip Chi-Mei, Lo Lieh, Lawrence Ng Kai-Wah, Kent Cheng Juk-Si, Carrie Ng Ka-Lai

     No list of Asian milestones in cinematic erotica would be complete without the infamous (and rightly so) "Sex and Zen." Loosely-based (and that's using the word "loosely" very loosely) on Lu Yi's Ming Dynasty era novel "Prayer Mat of the Flesh," the movie is admittedly heavier on the "Sex" than the "Zen."
     For the curious, the following twelve items should provide an ample sampling of the Asian contribution to erotic cinema with a little something for all tastes.
     The story is basically a fable about the consequences of unrestrained lust centering on an insatiable scholar named Mei Yang (Lawrence Ng) who inexplicably abandons his buxom young bride Yuk Heung (the ever-popular Amy "DDD" Yip) and heads out on a mission to have "knowledge" with as many women as possible. Yuk Heung, in the meantime, is forced to take up work in a brothel, setting up the inevitable and tragic reunion between husband and wife.
     The film's most legendary scene, ironically, is probably its least erotic; cursed with a sub-standard organ, Mei Yang seeks out the services of a "surgeon" and implores him to perform a transplant with a horse.
     In true Hong Kong fashion, "Sex and Zen"'s blend of eroticism and humor often reaches outlandish extremes, its characters indulging in a variety of unorthodox and acrobatic practices and positions (you'll never think of flutes and calligraphy the same way again) that make the Kama Sutra look downright puritanical.

Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Original Title: Topaazu (aka "Topaz")
Director: Ryu Murakami
Cast: Sayoko Maekawa, Miho Nikaido

     If there were ever an perfect example of just how peculiar Japanese censorship guidelines really are, "Tokyo Decadence" is it.
     A titillating and disturbing look at Tokyo's deviant sexual subculture through the eyes of a young call girl, "Tokyo Decadence" is perhaps the only film in history that can claim to be both prudish and perverse in equal measure.

     In the face of Japanese prohibitions on the showing of genitals or pubic hair, writer/director Ryu Murakami gets away with showing just about everything else. So much so, in fact, that one wonders just what the Japanese censors are expecting to accomplish.
     Miho Nikaido plays Ai, an upscale call girl with the kind of fetishistic clientele that would probably elicit a raised eyebrow from even the Marquis de Sade. The film's controversiality in its homeland, ironically, has less to do with the sexual content than the subtextual inferences about Japanese cultural degeneration. Overlooking those inferences amid the torrent of bizarre eroticism, though, is not a difficult chore.
     A perennial "midnight movie" favorite since its U.S. release in 1992, "Tokyo Decadence" alternates between David Lynch-style excess and scenes that are almost neorealist in their starkness. If nothing else, it does an excellent job of showing why the rest of Asia (and the world, for that matter) consider the Japanese view of sex just a tad on the weird side.
     Excellent work by cinematographer Tadash Aoki and Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto ("The Last Emperor") raise "Tokyo Decadence" several notches above the usual Japanese softcore. It should be pointed out, though, that while provocative, the material is definitely not for all tastes. Page 2

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