By Daniel Rutledge
The first thing to be done in reviewing this film is to dispel the myth that it’s the world’s first 3D porn film.
In the ‘70s a whole bunch of 3D porn films were released, some featuring the legendary John Holmes. The 3D technology was vastly inferior to today’s, but still, it’s an old gimmick.
And Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy is not actual porn. It’s softcore. If you have SafeSearch off, a google image search will instantly bring up images more pornographic than anything seen in this movie.
This is in no way a complaint as there would be nothing enjoyable about seeing an actual porn film at a cinema, it’s just with everyone calling this film porn, I wanted to set the record straight.
So what is it, exactly? It’s an erotic comedy, a reimagining of the 1991 Hong Kong film Sex and Zen. It has been correctly promoted as “the world’s first IMAX 3D erotic film” which was mistranslated by some as “the world’s first 3D porn film”.
The story is loosely based on a 17th century erotic Chinese story named The Carnal Prayer Mat and follows a young scholar named Yangsheng who gets married to the beautiful daughter of a local merchant. When their sex life proves unsatisfactory, Yangsheng leaves home and journeys to the Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss.
I won’t bother explaining what happens after that, not because of spoilers, but simply because nobody is going to care about the plot in a movie like this.
Shortly after the opening credits, sex scenes start happening thick and fast. Most of the cast are naked for the majority of the film, with carefully positioned loincloths usually hiding the most explicit bits.
Some of the actresses are stunning, especially Lan Yan and Japanese beauties Yukiko Suo and Saori Hara.
There’s a few sword fights and other little bits of violence, generally created with terrible-looking CGI, but they add to the fun, especially as there’s a huge emphasis placed on exploiting the 3D technology to its maximum. And there can be no denying that the 3D element does add a lot to this viewing experience.
A great many laughs can be had at many of the outrageous situations, the best of which is a botched penis transplant that has to be seen to be believed.
Other laughs are provided by the hilariously worded English translation. At one point a nervous bride asks her husband on their wedding night, “Will it hurt?”, to which he replies, “It might hurt, but it will also feel extremely awesome!”
The first two thirds of the running time are good, silly fun.
And then we get to the third act.
The film goes through an unbelievable and very unenjoyable tonal shift. It moves from raunchiness and humour into vicious sadism. There are some horrible scenes of sexual violence that in the context of such a jolly film made me feel very uncomfortable.
Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy carries noble messages of love being more important than lust and true love not requiring sex at all, but those messages are muted by the shock of wanting a bit of naughty fun and instead getting something really quite nasty.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy
:: Director: Christopher Sun
:: Starring: Hayama Go, Saori Hara, Lan Yan, Vonnie Lui, Yukiko Suo
:: Running Time: 128 mins
:: Rating: R18
:: Release Date: May 5, 2011
:: Trailer: Watch here