With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, May 26, 2008

ACF 113: Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan on DVD!!!

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan / Ai Nu
Directed by Chu Yuan a.k.a. Yuen Chor
Hong Kong 1972

Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan is a rare blend: a relatively straight up martial arts revenge film and a lesbian themed "love" story, with a smattering of female nudity thrown into the mix. The film begins in the aftermath of a murder, with scenes of green-tinted monochrome. The Liao family butler has found his master dead in his study. Liao was one of four men who "shared" Ai Nu (Lily Ho), the daughter of a poor teacher. She had been kidnapped and forced to serve in a brothel, which here substitutes for a martial arts school.

In a series of flashbacks, we learn of her arrival there and of her "indoctrination" in the ways of servicing a man. Her mentor is Lady Chun (Betty Pei Ti), the lesbian mistress who owns the brothel. Chun is totally hot for Ai Nu and there are several very sensual scenes of the two of them kissing and embracing. (Note that the female leads are never nude; we only see the breasts of some extras cast as other prostitutes.)

There are some rather tacky freeze frame shots as each of the four men go at Ainu. Like Liao, the other three men are also murdered by her. She has faked subservience in order to achieve her revenge, both for what has been done to her and to a male brothel worker who at one point tried to help her. Ai Nu's final target, naturally, is Lady Chun.

The film has some weaknesses. The fighting scenes are certainly decent, but they're nothing to rave about. There are some primitive "crash zooms," rapid zooms that sometimes go back and forth and not just in one direction. And though I don't often notice "background" music, some rather incongruous jazz horns caught my attention. 

On the other hand the film's faults are more than balanced by the two tall, young and gorgeous actresses (both from Taiwan), the interesting twist on a familiar plot device, and the absolutely stunning costumes and sets. Plus, you got to love a film that includes a line such as: "The likes of you don't deserve my love."

Intimate Confessions was shocking when it was released. Never before had lesbianism been so directly depicted in a legitimate Hong Kong martial arts film. I first saw the film at Lincoln Center in the fall of 2004 as part of the program Elegance, Passion and Cold Hard Steel: A Tribute to Shaw Brothers Studios. Now it's available as a single disc DVD from Image Entertainment as a Shaw Brothers Collection in the Eastern Masters series of releases. The transfer is first rate.

The best extra is the "Intimate Confessions of 3 Shaw Girls" Featurette, which focuses on Lily Ho, Betty Pei Ti, and Candice Yu (a.k.a. On-on Yu). The latter starred in the 1984 remake called Lust for Love of a Chinese Courtesan, which was also directed by Chu Yuan. There are also a Production Stills Gallery and a collection of trailers from other Image Entertainment Eastern Masters releases. Normally trailers don't do much for me, but these gave me lots of ideas of other films that I really would like to see and review.

Both the original Chinese soundtrack and a very well done English-dubbed version are available, as are optional English subtitles.

Intimate Confessions is an important film in the Shaw Brothers Studio canon. But more than that, it remains great entertainment even after over thirty-five years since it originally came out.

I give the Image Entertainment DVD release a 3.5 out out 4 star rating, highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your detailed review of this highly recommended Shaw Brothers' film. I enjoyed watching this DVD time after time!


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