Page 4 of 7

7. THE LOVER (1991)
Country: France/United Kingdom
Language: English
Original Title: L'Amant
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Cast: Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Jane March

     Though technically not an Asian film, this French/English co-production set in 1920s Indochina nevertheless deserves to be included here for no other reason than the fact that it features the most erotic sex scenes ever to involve an Asian male.
     Yet another Asian man/Caucasian woman tale courtesy of Marguerite Duras (whose own experiences presumably inspired the book) "The Lover" is actually a step forward from "Hiroshima, Mon Amour" in at least one key area: Instead of being referred to as simply "He" and "She," the film's leads (Tony Leung Ka Fai and Jane March) are listed in the credits as "The Chinaman" and "The Young Girl."
     May progress never cease.
     The very simple story concerns a teenage French girl (March) and a wealthy Chinese playboy (Leung) who no sooner meet on a ferry than they're torridly engaged in all manner of sweaty, heavy, breathy, fleshy sex (as if there's any other kind).
     In-between trysts, the film dwells, more or less, on the cultural and social consequences of their taboo, interracial relationship -- most notably as pertains to the disapproval of their respective families.
     As tends to be the case in Duras' stories, the relationship is inevitably doomed, but that doesn't stop Annaud and company from saturating the audience with some of the most artfully photographed and scintillatingly staged sex scenes in recent memory. In terms of pure heat, in fact, this may well be the most erotic of all the films mentioned here, both for women and men.
     For Leung, long a heartthrob in his native Hong Kong, the film is a noteworthy breakthrough in more ways than one. Boasting a magnificently toned, muscular body certain to make even his most devoted fans wonder, "Where did that come from?", Leung invests an otherwise two-dimensional role with passion and potent sexuality.

Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Original Title: Rampo
Director: Kazuyoshi Okuyama
Cast: Naoto Takenaka, Michiko Hada, Mikijiro Hira, Masahiro Motoki

     Sadly overlooked and underappreciated by American audiences at the time of its release, the exquisite "The Mystery of Rampo" was a deserved hit in Japan and a welcome artistic step forward for the lagging Japanese film industry, thanks primarily to the efforts of producer and first-time director Kazuyoshi Okuyama (his father runs Shochiku) who took over for the film's first director, Rintaro Mayuzumi, when initial results were less than satisfying.
     Inspired by the life and writings of famed 1930s era pulp novelist Edogawa Rampo, the largely fictional story centers on Rampo's own obsessions with a mysterious woman named Shizuko (the staggeringly beautiful supermodel Michiko Hada) who has been accused of murdering her husband in a manner that almost perfectly replicates the central incident in Rampo's latest novel. The similarity, of course, is purely coincidental since Rampo's novel was banned by authorities before it could make it to print.
     A brooding and repressed soul, Rampo finds it difficult to cope with his feelings for the woman and begins writing a sequel to his unpublished novel as therapy. It is at this point that the line between reality and fiction becomes less clear with Rampo's own life and that of his detective alter-ego, Akechi (Masahiro Motoki), becoming increasingly intertwined, each working at cross-purposes to save Shizuko from the dominating clutches of the perverse, cross-dressing Marquis Ogawara (Mikijiro Hira).
     Lush, romantic music by Akira Senju, beguiling production design by Kyoko Heya and surreal photography by Yasushi Sasakibara help create the film's overpowering sense of mood and feverish passion. In the movie's most powerful scene, Rampo voyeuristically looks on as Ogawara, in make-up and women's clothing, seduces and ravages Shizuko while a film projector casts images of graphic sado-masochistic activity on her nude torso -- an image that is at once unsettling, erotic, hypnotic and utterly unforgettable. Page 5

| Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | PHOTOS |


© 1996-2013 Asian Media Group Inc
No part of the contents of this site may be reproduced without prior written permission.