Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan (HK 1972)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 12/14/13
Cast: Lily Ho, Yueh Hua, Betty Pei Tai

This film caused quite a ruckus when it came out, as it explores a lesbian relationship between the owner of a brothel and one of her courtesans. The film opens with a feisty young girl named Ainu (Lily Ho) being kidnapped and sold to a brothel run by the cold and merciless Lady Chan (Betty Pei Tai). It seems everyone has the hots for Ainu, and she fetches a very high price from several rich and powerful people. Burning with hatred and despair, her attempts at suicide and escape only result in punishment and pain. With the situation hopeless, Ainu finally decides to exact her revenge with love and deception rather than violence and rage, and culls Chan's favor by becoming her lover. One by one, Ainu's clients start dying off, which ultimately leads to a deadly showdown between her and Chan.

It's a beautiful period piece and the two leads are amazing to watch. Unfortunately, the biggest frustration with the film is that the actors are often out of focus, which robs the women of some of their beauty and emotional impact. The fight scenes are fun to watch, even though the choreography is average at best. The sets and costumes are fantastic, which gives the production a high level of class and sophistication that rises above its controversial subject matter. The love scenes are tender, intimate, and tastefully done, consisting of longing glances, gentle caresses, and soft kisses. Things get surprisingly bloody towards the end, which adds another layer of color to an already impressive palette. While it's exceedingly tame and innocent by today's standards, it's an interesting take on the classic "rape and revenge" formula, with some nice surprises at the end.