Wednesday, April 20, 2011

3D Sex & Zen explodes in the Hong Kong box office

It's all over the news. 3D Sex & Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (pictured right) not only blew away Ang Lee's Lust, Caution as the highest grossing erotica film in Hong Kong theaters but also got on top of Avatar as the highest grossing 3D film in Hong Kong. Lines formed outside the theaters all weekend. There were even several women-only showings of the film, I guess to "protect" "delicate feminine sensibilities." It's produced by Stephen Siu, who was also executive producer to the 90s film Sex & Zen. The story is based on The Carnal Prayer Mat and this film features Japanese AV idols.

I saw the original 1991 Sex and Zen (pictured below) at the original Alamo Drafthouse in Austin during their Asian Sundays film series. That film was more silly than scintillating. It evoked a funny mixture of raunchy sex comedies like Porkys or American Pie with period piece erotica like Fanny Hill. SPOILER: But there's a hilarious scene with a horse penis. You really do have to see it to laugh. I also enjoyed the sexy martial arts pic Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, a Shaw Brothers film, during this run of Asian films.

One correction to the story that's been circulating. 3D Sex and Zen is not the first 3D porn. It's the first IMAX 3D porn. I saw the first 3D porn, an American porn called Disco Dolls in Hot Skin or just Hot Skin (1977), at the Dobie when the Dobie still focused on indie and foreign films. It "starred" John Holmes, Bill Margold, Serena, Lesllie Bovee, and Uschi Digard.

The projectionist had something, the filter I think my friend said, in backwards for about half the film, causing the 3D effects to be even less spectacular than the intended ho hum and giving me quite the headache. Being red-green colorblind, the old style paper 3D glasses with the blue and red lenses already give me problems. The story, like every porn story, was pretty lame. Something about an undercover detective. It was filled with stupid jokes and unfunny dirty puns. Like most 70s porn. (Wow. I never realized how many sex movies I've seen in the theater.)

Both Sex and Zen movies are based on the same Chinese story but I don't know how closely the narratives overlap. The new film hasn't made it to American shores yet and I'm not sure how many US IMAX 3-D venues are going to want to show it. In America, IMAX has been mostly confined to family films or summer blockbusters so far.

I haven't seen an US release date yet so I guess American audiences will just have to wait. If the critical consensus holds true, that's the theme of 3D Sex and Zen; while a racy soft core porn, the story actually promotes abstinence. Based on the trailer, it looks more serious in tone than the original. And there's some serious fighting going on.

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