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The Forbidden Legend:
Sex & Chopsticks
The Forbidden Legend: Sex & Chopsticks     The Forbidden Legend: Sex & Chopsticks

(left) Hikaru Wakana, and (right) Serina Hayakawa and Lam Wai-Kin
Chinese: 金瓶梅  
Year: 2008  
Director: Cash Chin Man-Kei  
Producer: Cash Chin Man-Kei
Cast: Hikaru Wakana, Kaera Uehara, Serina Hayakawa, Yui Morikawa, Winnie Leung Man-Yi, Lam Wai-Kin, Samuel Leung Cheuk-Moon, Tam Kon-Cheung, Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, Ng Chi-Hung
The Skinny: This adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei is a solid genre entry, if not an actual good movie. It has babes, boobs, and it doesn't really bore, so it'll likely meet the expecations of its intended audience. Still, it needs more chopsticks.
by Kozo:
Oh, how you've waited for this day. Maybe. It's been years since that former staple of Hong Kong Cinema - the ancient costume Category III sexploitation flick - has reared its soft-focus head, but the wait is now over. The Forbidden Legend: Sex & Chopsticks returns that hallowed genre to Hong Kong Cinema, bringing with it the fleshy beauties, questionably attractive leading men, softcore couplings, and game silliness that have so enchanted midnight movie audiences worldwide. Action, crime, and arthouse films have more international cachet, but do audiences in Europe and North America care more about opulent softcore pornography than a well-written, acted and directed romantic comedy? I'm guessing that they do, and thanks to the geniuses(?) at My Way Films, those people and their raincoats can head back to the cinemas. A round of beers and high-fives for everyone.

Hold on a sec - this isn't typical softcore sleaze. Nope, this is wannabe classy stuff, since it's based on Jin Ping Mei, a.k.a. The Plum in the Golden Vase, a famous 17th century novel considered to be among the major classical novels of Chinese literature, right next to a little book called The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Thanks to both Sex & Chopsticks and Red Cliff, 2008 is now the year that the classics have returned to Hong Kong Cinema. Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement - as is comparing Sex & Chopsticks director Chin Man-Kei (Sex and Zen 2) to John Woo - but seeing this film get theatrical play does feel a bit nostalgic. Back in Hong Kong Cinema's heyday (i.e., the time they used to release 200+ movies per year), you'd be guaranteed a few of these films per year. That's not the case now, with the industry suffering so completely that even a film that's considered a hit can't earn its budget back at the box office. In today's rough moviemaking climate, movies like Sex & Chopsticks are now a welcome event.

But is this a quality event? Well, yeah, if you rate quality according to the amount of flesh, silliness, and surprise that the movie doles out. Historically, Sex & Chopsticks may be a welcome development, but it doesn't belong to a genre that's exactly renowned for its artistic quality. Sex & Chopsticks can't match up to the standard bearers of the genre (Sex and Zen and A Chinese Torture Chamber Story, to mention two), but manages to qualify as simple, solid softcore with a smattering of action, dirty humor, and some decent production values to shore things up. It's still a cheap production; the film gets really grainy every time a visual effect shows up, and one large prop is conspicuously reused. Also, when the film takes a detour to a nunnery, all the nuns - save the main female actress - are played by young boys, with their master played by an old bald man! They're all dubbed with femme-sounding voices, but the rationale here isn't comedy, it's budget. Seriously, does anyone think the filmmakers had the money to pay a dozen girls to shave their heads? Obviously not, so they paid only one, and spend less than five minutes at the nunnery so things don't get too disturbing. The filmmakers get an "A" for fiscal responsibility.

They also get solid grades for their babes. Since few Hong Kong actresses will attempt this sort of film anymore (the crappy media attention is probably not worth the career boost), the featured actresses here are Japanese porn stars, and each fulfills their duty handily. That is, they all look good naked, plus they actually appear to be enjoying the sex scenes - talents that are aren't always found in Hong Kong softcore actresses. The same positives can't necessarily be said for the leading man, however. Starring as ancient Chinese lothario Simon Qing is Lam Wai-Kin, veteran of the 21st century Category III flick My Horny Girlfriend, among other non-notable films. Lam possesses almost non-existent screen presence, but at least he's a game performer, and will even deep throat a young woman's foot in what's likely the most disturbing scene in the film. He also attempts the sort of silly sex shenanigans seen in nineties Category III flicks, with wire-enhanced sex and more wacky masturbation scenes than any film truly requires. Lam Wai-Kin does what's required of him, so the fact that he doesn't have the acting chops or charisma of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai shouldn't be held against him. At least he gets into the sex scenes, which is more than you can say for old school action star Tsui Siu-Keung, who plays Simon's father and performs his lone love scene like he's afraid of touching his co-star.

The plot, for those who need it: rich and powerful Simon Qing (Lam Wai-Kin) has been schooled in the ways of sex by his virile father (Tsui Siu-Keung), but is still a virgin. That is, until he meets his first love Violetta (pornstar Kaera Uehara), who has fun with him all over his father's estate. Alas, their love does not last, so Simon embarks on a journey to, um, do something. Along the way he meets the comely nun Moon (pornstar Hikaru Wakana), who observes his manhood one evening by poking at it with a pair of chopsticks - thus earning the film its English title. Simon deflowers her and marries her, after which he becomes enamored of the small-footed Golden Lotus (pornstar Serina Hayakawa), who's married to dwarf Wu Da-Lang (Ng Chi-Hung, acting unconvincingly on his knees). The two conspire to get rid of him, setting up another marriage for Simon, plus the promise of a second film, where he's supposed to meet Plum (not-a-pornstar Winnie Leung), thereby making his home life a "Dallas in the Palace", not unlike Zhang Yimou's Raise the Red Lantern, except with nudity and worse acting. There, I've just given away the entire film.

Not that people care about plot here, because they probably don't. Purists of the original Jin Ping Mei literature should probably check out one of the other adaptations, like the 1974 Shaw Brothers film Golden Lotus, or maybe any of the adaptations starring Tan Lap-Man. The Forbidden Legend: Sex & Chopsticks doesn't attempt anything with its literary pedigree, and chooses not to use Simon Qing's corruption or crappy morals for drama or possible commentary. If one wanted to throw their full critical powers at the film, they could have a field day, but such an effort would be inappropriate here. This is an exercise at getting nudity and sex onto the screen, and as such, it succeeds. The film features plenty of flesh, lots of sex, and numerous fetishes, plus it never really bores. As such, it's suited for its intended audience - in large part because it's really the only game in town. That is, until the sequel rolls around and audiences can get a second helping of Lam Wai-Kin's backside, as well as more Winnie Leung and maybe a storyline closer to the original Jin Ping Mei novel. More chopsticks would be good too, because really, the film doesn't feature them enough to justify its curious title. It's got enough sex, nudity, and silliness, so that's what the sequel really needs: more chopsticks. They should have the budget for that. (Kozo 2008)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Joy Sales Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

images courtesy of My Way Films Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen