Tuesday, December 15, 2009

SEX AND ZEN (1991)

I ask the Internet, is there a genre more adorned with disappointment and failure than erotic comedy? How many years of a life could be wasted on USA Up All Night straight-to-video things with titles like Bikini Carwash Change Thief Action Squad? And yet one of the best things I've seen lately is a sex comedy with SEX right there in the title. Hello, SEX AND ZEN!

Lawrence Ng plays an amorous scholar who marries and schools his sex-hesitant wife (Amy Yip) in the ways of carnal business. Then he bolts, in search of new loves and a fresh penis. Meanwhile, the now wang-crazed wife gets herself into lady trouble through a series of unfortunate happenings. This all leads to a conclusion that differs starkly from the preceding, mostly-fun film.

Erotic comedy mainly sucks (harhar) because it is neither erotic nor comedic enough to satisfy. Much too much of it lazily dishes these banal situations and expects the viewer to overlook the poor effort because siliconed boobs are part of the scene. SEX AND ZEN succeeds at both of erotic comedy's reasons for being. The sex scenes are hot and the laughs are laugh-out-loud funny.

Plot-wise, it's essentially a farce with some slapstick. Of course, it's a Cat III film, so there are elements here that won't play well with Western sensitivities. The Netflix reviews seem to cite the domestic abuse as the most unacceptable thing, but it's clear that the abuser is a villain and it's likely that the unfettered presentation has much to do with viewer turnoff. No one on Netflix has even mentioned the parade of penis mutilations. Again, the double standard of Western sexism. Despite these things, the film is not really that rough and could probably be enjoyed by people who dig Farrelly Brothers stuff. Except for the subtitles. If only they could read!

The whole thing has the feel of some aged piece of literature, like Gargantua and Pantagruel or something. It's scandalous and randy as hell, but strangely old-fashioned in its storytelling and didactic-wrapup structure. Which makes sense, given that it's adapted from a seventeenth-century novel called The Carnal Prayer Mat. So, if you like things like sex or literature or flipping/flying thieves, give this one a try.

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