A mildly intriguing Cat. III feature from 1984, An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty is an interesting, well-shot failure -- in its 97-minute version, at least.
From reading other online reviews of this title, it seems as if the film has been severely edited and, as the Shaw Brothers reissue version is even shorter than the version YTSL watched and reviewed, I think it's safe to say that the film has been cut dramatically.
So, from what I can gather from the edited film that remains, Patricia Ha Man Jik's Yu Yuan-Gi has left a Taoist monastery to become a courtesan.
In a nice, almost wordless sequence, she dives into the water in her satin gown, and rises to be greeted by the sword point of Alex Man's Tsui Pok-Hau's blade. Alex was quite effective in Hong Kong Hong Kong and his good looks help in his role here.
There's a pretty steamy scene on Tsui Pok-Hau's boat but it's strangely unerotic. Well-shot and carefully framed, the scene felt a bit clinical to me.
Then, following some battle scenes with the rogue swordsman, Yu Yuan-Gi returns to the Taoist monastery.
I will admit that it was quite hard to get a grip on the plot as I watched the 97-minute version of the film.
It's an episodic take on the woman's life both inside and outside the brothel but we never get a sense of the character -- what she was prior to the alternation of the Taoist life and the courtesan's role.
Still, the visuals -- erotic or otherwise -- are beautiful at times and the DVD picture was anamorphic widescreen which was a nice touch.
Pat Ha was so good in My Name Ain't Suzie -- a film that transcended its erotic Cat. III origins -- as well as in a small role in The Flying Mr. B, and there are moments when she conveys some emotion here. But, largely due to the editing or direction of the film, it's apparent that she either was in the film because she was a young actress who had to do a Cat. III film to get her career started, or she was in the film and it was a real dramatic feature that was severely butchered into a much shorter, erotic psuedo-exploitation picture.
The direction by Eddie Fong is assured and seems reminiscent of a Yonfan film for some reason. Fong wrote the script for A Fishy Story, an altogether different kind of Hong Kong cinema classic.
Unfortunately, An Amorous Woman of Tang Dynasty is listed as out-of-print on both DVD and VCD.
[Photos: YesAsia/Celestial Pictures]