My first exposure to Amy Yip
Scott DuBreuil | 07/17/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I initally got this film to humor a friend of mine. Then it turns out, it had me rolling on the floor with laughter for a majority of it. I liked it so much that I got the sequal. And this movie made me a fan of Amy Yip. If you want good erotic humor, Sex and Zen is a way to go. This film is based on the classic book 'The Prayer-Mat of Flesh'. And it follows our main characther who is a scholar whose only pursuit is that of a carnal nature. He marries the most powerful man in the area's daughter so that he may have protection from the husbands of married women he carries on with. As his marriage begins, his wife is a virgin whom he introduces to sex, and as he wanders she has a desire for it that grows as well with longing while he's gone. Our dear scholar befriends the best thief in the land, and learns another secret to seduction...that being one that involves genetalia. So our hapless scholar enlists the help of a crazy doctor to transplant a horse phallus in the place of his own. With the operation finished, our scholar dallies around the land with a few different women, including the wife of a silk merchant, and the wife of a noble, and her sister in law. Meanwhile, our lovely young wife (played by the beautiful Amy Yip), is left home alone with only her desires. She ends up being seduced by the silk merchant who was earlier shamed by our scholar, and sold to the biggest brothel in the province. Our scholar eventually escapes the noble's wife and sister in law, and ends up at this brothel, in an attempt to regain his eyesight (you need to see what happens to him to understand), where he runs into his wife, where our story twists again. Despite it's comedic take on things, this story does have a very good and solid moral, along the lines of 'be careful of what you do unto others, as it may be done unto you.' It's by far not the best film I've ever seen, but it is definitely one of a kind, and as I said portrayed in a comedic erotic nature. The sequal to this film, was very different and much darker. Out of the two I would recommend Sex & Zen to anyone who wants to see some erotic humor."
Read the book for the plot, watch this for beautiful women!
Ben Jordan | 06/21/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A young Buddhist scholar rejects the teachings of his master, who advocates complete abstinence from all physical pleasure in order to attain enlightenment, and goes in search of a good time, and soon discovers that in order to get the girls he desires, he's going to need bigger equipment. Much bigger equipment in fact. Something that a horse would have. But too much of a good thing can only lead to trouble, and he eventually finds that the old monk may not have been full of wind after all. Shallow, directionless, soft-core, and stupid. A very twisted and just plain daft interpretation of The Carnal Prayer Mat, the famously-banned `Yellow' novel by Li Yu. It isn't a yellow novel really; most of those critics entirely missed the point. But this HK adaption is indeed gratuitous, and really does seem to be just an excuse to see a lot of very beautiful women gyrate and moan in revealing clothing, or indeed, no clothing whatsoever. The moral Buddhist message about animal pleasures fails to make the transition to the audio/visual medium, along with every other point Li Yu was trying to make. However, I am a bloke, and I won't pretend that I wasn't entertained by those beautiful women I mentioned, and when I'm in the mood I can enjoy the crude and silly humour (and it really is very funny in a silly way) that characterises this and other such HK films. Just don't go into this with any expectations of depth. If well-choreographed soft-core sex is your thing (and let's face it, who doesn't like that?), as portayed by Chinese goddesses of HK cinema, then what are you waiting for? Sex & Zen beckons you!"
What a thoroughly bizarre film.
Erin K. Darling | olympia, wa | 09/06/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Going solely by a few reviews here, I bought this film with the assumption that it would be a steamy comedy. While there are some very steamy scenes indeed, the "comedy" is so low-brow as to not even raise a chuckle. ...While a couple of the sex scenes are very good, there is one that is basically a violent rape of a battered woman, and another that is very close to rape (although the women of course end up enjoying the experience, naturally.) There is also a forced abortion, and a woman being forced into slavery, some things I wouldn't expect to find in a comedy at all. There are a couple of Buddhist sentiments tossed in at the beginning and at the end, but by and large, this is just soft core porn - the story line makes little sense, and is just a cheap way to get from one sex scene to the next. I'd expect that in flat-out pornographic films, but in something trying to pass itself off as something else...well, I was disappointed.Some of the colors, fabrics and textures are very lovely, but it's obviously a low-budget film. The actors and actresses are generally attractive, and if all you want is some soft-core porn to pass an hour or so, this might just be your movie.Bear in mind that it's subtitled, although with the level of diaglogue that's present, you might just as well leave it off.Overall, very disappointing."
A Chinese Picaresque Satire?
altmedia | Bronx, New York United States | 01/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One puzzle about this film is the title: i.e. whereas there is a great deal of sex enacted in multiple variations (sometimes quite extreme) in this film, it is hard to discern the least trace of Zen, or its Chinese precursor, Ch'an Buddhism. The only overt expressions of Buddhism are of the most formalistic, prechy moralizing variety; a pietistic, perhaps ritualistic, mannerist caricature of Buddhism, perhapss--or perhaps rather a caricature of Roman Catholicism, or of any other petrified, formalistic religion. One suspects the influence of Spanish picaresque literature,..."