Cult Cinema: Sex and Zen

Kick up your feet and read Michelle's review of Sex and Zen.

"Oh my!!! How did that fit?
Those shoes are way too small."
I am not embarrassed to admit I enjoy watching pornography from time to time and I especially love the more outlandish movies that have cropped up over the years. Sex and Zen is one such film; combining soft-core sex with high-flying Wuxia style scenes and hilarious comedic hi-jinx. It’s been classified as a Hong Kong Category III film, which equates to a NC-17 rating here in the states. Cat III films are notorious for having explicit sex and gore and they are usually exploitation horror films. Sex and Zen is billed as a sex comedy and has a very lighthearted tone for the most part.

The plot of the film is based on a 17th century Chinese novel called The Carnal Prayer Mat, and follows the adventures of a lecherous scholar (Lawrence Ng) who wants to learn techniques to help him sleep with married women easier. He meets the world’s greatest thief who gives him some rather interesting advice (involving a horse penis transplant) to help him on his sexual conquests. Everything that happens in this film is utterly ridiculous and zany; it is a step up from most pornographic film storylines and remains entertaining for the entire duration. This film is a period piece as well and had a lavish twelve million dollar budget. The costumes and sets look quite extravagant and director Michael Mak did a great job of making the film look like a high quality production. Unfortunately, the musical score is somewhat bland and unobtrusive but it doesn’t detract from the overall film too much.

"Yummmm....tastes just like chicken."
As for the sex scenes, each one has a unique style and they are all executed wonderfully. Some are done in a comedic style but most are meant to be sensual and titillating. One scene, filmed almost entirely underwater, is amazing and has to be seen to be believed. The cinematography is pretty good most of the time and they use wire-fu techniques for some of the sexual positions which is hilarious to watch. Most of the actors and actresses had been in previous Cat III sex films but they put in natural and convincing performances. It is soft-core however, so there are no penetration shots or male genitals directly shown. There are a plethora of boobs if you are into that kind of thing though.

Sex and Zen did quite well at the box office and it spawned two inferior sequels in the wake of its success. Several of the actors and actresses went on to become bigger mainstream film stars but the stigma of being in a pornographic film did follow them for most of their careers. I think this movie is fun to watch and transcends being just an ordinary sleazy porno because of the care and love put into the actual film. If you are a fan of naughty films and kung-fu movies, you will definitely have a good time watching Sex and Zen; it’s worth tracking down just for the experience.

-Michelle Kisner