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Viva Erotica

A larky take on the Hong Kong pic industry in general, and soft-core exploiters in particular, "Viva Erotica" is highly enjoyable fare that could find a life in Sino-friendly fests and Chinese film weeks. What this latest picture by former actor Derek Yee (best known overseas for his 1993 relationships movie "C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri") was doing in competition at Berlin is another matter. Singer-actor Leslie Cheung plays Sing, a director whose last two movies bombed and who badly needs a hit. A trashy producer (gleefully played by Law Kar-ying) isn't interested in Sing's latest arty script and suggests he makes a "Category III" movie instead, starring his sexy girlfriend, Miss Mango (Taiwanese soft-core star Shu Qi).

With:
Sing ... Leslie Cheung May ... Karen Mok Chung ... Law Kar-ying Mango ... Shu Qi Wah ... Tsui Kam-kong Derek Yee ... Lau Ching-wan

The dreamy Sing, who’s suffering from a bad case of “8-1/2” syndrome, has difficulty focusing on the job, and his own g.f., policewoman May (sparky Karen Mok, excellent as usual), attributes his loss of sexual interest in her to his close working relationship with Miss Mango. The pic eventually gets made, but then a fire destroys the negative.

There are plenty of in-jokes throughout the script — including one sequence in which a look-alike actor plays a director called Derek Yee who suicides after his movie flops — but the generally smooth production values and good-natured tone are enough to carry along non-specialist Western auds.

The boyish Cheung largely drifts through the movie in a bemused haze, with most of the strong characterizations coming from the other players. Shu Qi is fine as the dumb starlet and has at least one scene (where she slips into her native Mandarin dialect) that gives her role a smidgin of substance.

Some early sex scenes between Cheung and Mok are notably realistic by H.K. standards, though as a whole the movie’s tone is more “Viva” than “Erotica.” Chinese title roughly means “Male-Female Sexual Desire.”

Viva Erotica

Hong Kong

Production: A Golden Harvest presentation of a Golden Harvest Entertainment Co., Film Unlimited production. (International sales: Golden Harvest, H.K.) Produced by Raymond Chow. Executive producer, Catherine Hun. Directed, written by Derek Yee, Lo Chi-leung, from a screen story by Bosco Lam.

Crew: Camera (color), Jingle Ma; editor, Kwong Chi-leung; music, Clarence Hui; art direction, Ringo Fung; costume design, Ben Lok; sound, Leung Chi-to; associate producer, Li Pak-ling. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 14, 1997. Running time: 100 MIN. (Cantonese dialogue)

With: Sing ... Leslie Cheung May ... Karen Mok Chung ... Law Kar-ying Mango ... Shu Qi Wah ... Tsui Kam-kong Derek Yee ... Lau Ching-wan

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