Friday, May 21, 2010

Sinful Confession with Michael Hui

Comedian Michael Hui plays multiple roles in 1974's Sinful Confession, a big budget Shaw Brothers erotic farce. The sets are really amazing in this film -- proof that the Shaws didn't waste money even on what was really a sex comedy -- and I really enjoyed the film for many retro reasons.

Director Li Han-Hsiang and actress Hu Chin worked together a few times and yet Sinful Confession seems better than most of her other films. I think the modern setting makes it interesting, as does the presence of funnyman Michael Hui.

The roles assayed by Mr. Hui here are less broad than the title role in The Warlord (1972) and the comedy seems rooted in reality to some degree.

I think I'm probably missing some details by relying on English subtitles but I could get a good sense of the film's take on 1974-era Hong Kong.

Michael Hui first plays a newspaper reporter who tries to blackmail the makers of an erotic film in his neighborhood. This section wasn't particularly funny to me but the sequence is a pleasure to watch due to the sets and costumes; 1970s junkies should be pleased.

Then he cameos as a politician who likes to explore the seedier neighborhoods and indulge his vices.

Unlike other Li Han-Hsiang films, the director this time wisely threads the multiple stories together rather than make an anthology film.

Next it's on to a doctor for Michael, a doctor who dances the tango with his female patients. The doctor is about to get his comeuppance from the lovely Pai Hsiao Man. The actress was a new discovery for the Shaws and sadly committed suicide before the premiere of this film. I'm sure there's some story there if anyone can ever find it.

I end up liking stuff like Sinful Confession for the wrong reasons. I mean, it's not that the film is particularly funny to me, or erotic for that matter, but I like seeing the era represented so unaffectedly on film. With this sort of thing, it's almost like a more honest representation of the 1974 milieu. Yes, the sets and costumes and scene trappings are quite nice and top-of-the-line, but it's almost like you're seeing a more honest version of 1974 Hong Kong than you would see in a kung fu film.


Add to that a truly Nabokovean ending where director Li Han Hsiang plays himself in the picture trying to scam scammer Michael Hui (in his fresh-off-the-boat character role). The final scene is both funny and quite sophisticated as the director comments on his own career in character as himself in one of his own films.

[Spoilers End]

A weird film, Sinful Confession was neither erotic nor funny enough to be a classic of either genre but it seemed like some lost classic all the same. Hu Chin's role is relatively small, unfortunately.

You can order Sinful Confession on DVD here.