Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan (1972)

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan might sound like a softcore porn movie but it isn’t. In fact it’s a Shaw Brothers martial arts flick.

The Hong Kong studio was going through a phase of trying to snare a wider market by making more genre crossover movies. At around this time they made the surprisingly excellent Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires in partnership with Britain’s Hammer Films. Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan was an attempt to take the kind of period swordplay movies they usually made and add a fairly generous helping of sleaze. It’s a reasonably successful combination.

It takes place at some unspecified time period in China’s imperial past. Ainu is one of a shipment of kidnapped girls being delivered by brigands to Lady Chun’s brothel. This is a very exclusive and very expensive brothel, its customers being a good cross-section of the rich and powerful. Ainu is very uncooperative and her unwillingness to submit earns her a thorough beating after which she is raped by a number of very wealthy men who have paid high prices for the privilege of breaking in the new girl.

Ainu (Lily Ho) becomes a very successful prostitute but she has a long memory. She intends to take her revenge. And this she does, in violent and spectacular fashion. She has become an expert swordswoman and she has a knack for conceiving elaborate plans to make her vengeance as satisfying and as fitting as possible.

Lady Chun (Betty Pei Ti) has meanwhile fallen hopelessly in love with Ainu. The brothel owner isn’t overly worried by Ainu’s campaign of revenge as she has convinced herself that Ainu returns her love. It all leads to a spectacular and gory finish with a nasty little sting in the tail.

There’s quite a bit of nudity but nothing very graphic, although the sexual violence be disturbing to some viewers.

The sets and costumes are as lavish as you’d expect in a Shaw Brothers production. They were a bit like Hammer in their heyday in that they could make movies that looked a whole lot more expensive than they were. Add the usual gorgeous cinematography that characterised the studio’s efforts and you have a very handsome-looking movie.

The fight scenes are spectacular and quite gory.

More impressive even that the visuals are the performances by the two lead actresses, especially Betty Pei Ti as the beautiful but wicked lesbian madam (who is also an expert swordswoman).

It’s a tale of obsessive love and obsessive hate done with style and energy. If you don’t mind sleaze with your martial arts movies then there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had.

1 comment:

venoms5 said...

There had been some Shaw movies with elements of sleaze in them prior to this one, but this Chu Yuan picture broke down barriers with its overt lesbianism. It was heavily promoted throughout 1971 and 1972 prior to its release. Great film and review, D.