3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy Opens Big in Hong Kong

Breasts, blood, daggers and a donkey’s penis. While this may sound like the kind of thing you expect to see flying in your general direction during a drunken night out in Tijuana, this is actually what moviegoers in Hong Kong got to see emerging from the screen in 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy.

The film opened in Hong Kong on April 14th, and managed to reach the top spot, earning a stunning $1.7 million (HK$13 million) during its opening weekend. It has surpassed Lust Caution as the highest opening for a Category III rated film.

By the end of March, advance ticket sales for the film had already reached over 5000, with cinema websites in Hong Kong reporting sold out screenings for the first two nights. The UA Cinemas chain put on screenings strictly for women only, while the Newport Circuit chain were handing out promotional Sex and Zen tissues.

Because of China’s censorship laws, the film is unlikely to be screened there, so tour operators planned trips to Hong Kong so that people could view it. This also occurred when a heavily cut version Ang Lee’s Lust Caution was released in China in 2007. “We have already drawn a lot of tourists,” said the film’s director, Christopher Sun. “There’s no way to show this film there in China so they just come by and try to watch it.”

Pirate VCD/DVD copies are bound to turn up in China, but would clearly loose 3D Sex and Zen’s raison d’être, the 3D aspect. One can already gain a sense of depth in the trailer (see below), with CG bullets and daggers, and especially when we see Saori Hara stretch her arm out towards the camera. Writer and producer, Stephen Shiu, mentioned that the 3D aspect, “will leave audiences feeling like they are sitting right there at the edge of the bed.”

The film is a remake of Sex and Zen, originally released back in 1991, and itself based on the erotic novel, The Carnal Praying Mat. The latest film follows a young scholar, Wei Yangsheng (Hiro Hayama), who after marrying Tie Yuxiang (Leni Nam) finds that he seems incapable of satisfying his new wife, due to being somewhat diminutive in a certain area. Disappointed, he leaves his wife at home and soon meets The Prince of Ning (Tony Ho), who invites Yangsheng to his Pavilion of Ultimate Bliss, where he encounters many beautiful women. However, his shortcomings compel him to undergo an operation to have his penis replaced by a donkey’s.

Early reviews from those that have seen the film have been surprisingly positive, highlighting not just the level of sex and violence, but an overall message and also the humour, pointing out how 3D Sex and Zen just so happens to be genuinely funny.

While the film features the Hong Kong born Tony Ho and Vonnie Lui, Sun had to seek out Japanese performers for the film, since many conservative Chinese actors would find starring in such a film damaging for their career. Actor Hiro Hayama, and AV idols, Saori Hara and Yukiko Suo are Japanese.

The version released in Hong Kong runs at 118 minutes, though to make the film more accessible to other markets, a shorter cut version (running at 110 minutes) has been put together, which will be screened when the film opens in Singapore. Apparently the full directors cut is 128 minutes long.

With a production budget of $2.6 million (HK$20 million), it’s clearly going to make a profit. With deals already finalised to have the film open in France and Italy later this summer, plans are already underway for the film to see a lucrative US release. As of writing no distributor has picked the film up for the UK. The issue of rape scenes makes the possibility of a release here problematic, meaning that if it does arrive, it’ll most likely be cut.

Upon contacting the most likely distributors, only Artificial Eye responded to tell us that the film is not on their release schedule. That’s not to say that it won’t happen, since it’s quite possible that distributors are still waiting to see how the film will perform  in other territories.

Even though 3D Sex and Zen has only just been released, a sequel is already in the works, with producer Shiu looking to cast model Mavis Pan Shuangshuang for an unrelated follow up.

Sources: The Guardian | The Hollywood Reporter | Film Business Asia

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