The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks II (2009)
Produced & directed by: Cash Chin
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The second of two Category III movies based on classical Chinese 100 chapter novel Jin Ping Mei (The Plum In The Golden Vase), Cash Chin proved with The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks that he could still infuse period softcore porn more popular in the first half of the 90s with naughty energy post-millennium where Hong Kong cinema more often than not stays clear of this material. Chin was certainly a good candidate to awake a slumbering sub-genre as he was responsible for some of the more memorable exploitation ventures way past the popularity of the Category III movie (movies such as Naked Poison and The Fruit Is Swelling). As detailed in the review for the original, the written words behind the cheap and largely lighthearted moving images were more serious in tone, talking of social issues such as sexual politics and the role of women in ancient Chinese society. Chin made the wise thing to not go pretentious on us by bringing up such serious details in DETAIL and instead focused on the sexual adventures of Ximen Qing (or Simon Qing in the subtitles), a seriously well-trained sexual being (his father, played by old school legend Norman Tsui, taught him cock push-ups in order to reach the Iron Dick-standard. It's that kind of movie). Eventually all this womanizing lead to hunger for power, hunger for multiple women and we ended the first movie with Ximen Qing (Oscar Lam) along with his concubine Lotus (Hayakawa Serina) murdering her father (Frankie Ng). The story is therefore on its way to feature the inner going on's and downfall of the Ximen household, seemingly the center piece of the novel that deals with the sexual power struggles of the many women of his. Not only Ximen wants to feel powerful and influential. As he increases the number of concubines, his wife Moon (Wakana Hikaru) feels neglected as Ximen chooses to play with Lotus instead. When he steals away Pinky (Uehara Kaera) from her husband, yet another one is left in the background and the final concubine in this intrigue, Plum (Winnie Leung) may be the one who sets in motion the downfall...
Adhering to the long Hong Kong cinema tradition (and a largely gone one) of switching moods drastically within a movie (or movie series), it's definitely possible Cash Chin is of the frame of mind that he greatly enjoys playing with audiences expectations, local or otherwise, and what The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks II does compared to the first movie is to go down the expected dark routes the brief synopsis of the novel suggests. Now that wouldn't have been a given thing and ultimately I think the production company My Way (1*) wanted Cash Chin to adhere to Hong Kong cinema's old ways and therefore Chin to his. Could've stayed light but it just happened to be more darkness and gore chosen for the sequel. Groovy and ultimately it makes sense watching Ximen Qing developing this way, leaving behind his giddy nature in favour of the ever increasing desire. You raise the bar. You conjure up more danger. You create more bloodshed. You loose control and the bloodshed slowly becomes directed at you. The character of Ximen Qing does become more interesting to follow this time around therefore.
After the multiple nipples have been shown during the opening credits (and a quick recap), life is still bubbly and care free as Ximen plays with Lotus and grapes to very amusing effect the Category III-way. Cash Chin is still having fun because the naughty character is. A character that doesn't apologize for his obsession with sex but a character that is going to go down the expected unsympathetic routes as we learn more of his dark streak. Before all that, Chin has also showcased that his desire for sex-scenes for this movie isn't going to be relegated to quick montages. No, keeping the camera rolling for a long time and pretty much clinching the mood needed for each (be it light, sexy or distressingly disturbing), it's one of the strengths of the more compelling sequel that Chin has accepted the challenge to do justice to the moods as suggested by the synopsis of the novel.
Although Cash Chin is overly obvious when explaining character motivations and themes, it's comforting to see lead actor Oscar Lam finally showing signs of being very correct casting. Looking anything but threatening and instead like a giddy kid having had too much sweats, it's still a fact that he's become an untouchable, resourceful force in his land (essentially owning the justice system is one example). But a kid who likes candy wants more and you let your guard down, something the women around him realize as the subplot about characters wanting revenge for the death of Frankie Ng's Wu Da-Lang appear. It's pretty obvious where we're heading so that sense of signaling the obvious actually plays in Cash Chin's favour as the movie rolls on. It's all about us looking through a huge magnifying glass at Ximen Qing's increasingly depraved actions and abuse.
Having especially been infatuated with sadomasochism and letting others have a go at his concubines, Chin does go far when portraying this particular leaning and certainly pushes the softcore level of the film to the top of the roof. But we're coming back to the fact that he creates steamy erotica as much as he disgusts when Ximen Qing abuses his surroundings. It's a director keeping moods controlled and apart... something that, as it turns out, means that he goes against the tradition of old Hong Kong cinema of this kind. A particular disgusting highlight is Ximen Qing feeding aphrodisiac to Pinky's husband as well as her AND having him in the room while he essentially rapes his now willing wife. It's an outrageous scene with acrobatic sex galore but we're equally involved in following the depravity and degradation in the character.
Basically we're effectively following a doomed dope, through the viewfinder of cinematographer Ross Clarkson who makes the low budget package and the women within it very alluring. The Forbidden Legend Sex & Chopsticks II doesn't in fact possess a whole lot of depth but it in the end displays a difference compared to when it could've been made (back in the 90s). Nowadays, we're in an era in Hong Kong cinema with more spit and polish. The film takes to heart being born in it and with past sensibilities. This series stands out because Cash Chin allows it to be pushed into logical, sexual explicit territory with the background theme of power consummation playing out surprisingly effective on the small scale. Perhaps we're in fact blessed with the fact that this filmmaking more evident in the 90s only pops up very sporadically nowadays. It allows in this case for creating a somewhat deeper thought process behind cheap smut and that is quite a few leaps of development for the Category III softcore erotica. I'm glad it's Cash Chin that's steering the development.
The DVD (Joy Sales):
Video: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Audio: Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1.
Subtitles: English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese.
Extras: The trailer. In the dvd-case there is also a pen with a retractable banner showing explicit artwork created for the film.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson