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Interview: Christopher Sun director of 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy

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Christopher Sun is the director of the 3D erotic film; 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy. So far it has broken box office records in Hong Kong and Singapore and is due for release in the UK on the 2nd of September.

Inspired in part by the ancient text, The Carnal Prayer Mat (essentially the Chinese Karma Sutra) Sun describes the film as 'an exciting, erotic love comedy.'

In order to get the film into the UK two minutes of cuts had to be made. The British Board Of Film Classification said that;

“Compulsory cuts were required to two scenes of sexual and sexualised violence, which included elements with a tendency to eroticise and endorse sexual violence.”

TNS makes a long distance call to Hong Kong to find out what the controversy is all about...

What can viewers expect from the film?

I think there is a surprise element, the title is very inviting. But when the viewer goes into the theatre they will see something different than what they expected.

What will be different?

The comical element, the very strong message of true love prevails and the audience will find that the way we tell the story is actually very fast paced. But not like hardcore pornography. Compared to what we can view on the internet nowadays the sex is actually undertoned. But the beauty of it we escalated, we tried to show it as classical and beautiful as it should be.

What do you think the 3D effects add to the film?

Some people have mistaken the CGI stuff as the 3D official. Actually what we are showcasing is the wide shots and medium shots that gives a very good quality of every little thing, to showcase the artistic element. This is the kind of 3D stuff we are going to sell to people in our movie, not CGI.

How much was the film inspired by The Carnal Prayer Mat?  Does it follow the plot/themes closely or did you take a lot of artistic license?  

We took out the main character of the novel but the story is more or less the same. In the novel our villain character; the Prince of Ning is not there at all. The novel is more about karma, for the time being we just ripped that part away because people are not convinced by karma. There is no way karma has anything to do with Chinese erotica so we’ve found that it’s wise to take it away.

Did you tone down the sex/violence, or is the film more graphic than the book?

We didn’t tone it down, we just treated it differently. I do believe there is a swarm of pornography over the internet already and people have seen enough. So the sex scenes are used to introduce the characters and the way they think. You can see the differences between the actresses through the sex scenes, you can tell from the way they do that kind of stuff what their character is like.

How about the violence?

We want to use the violence to stretch the sacrificial part of the main characters. Wei and his wife each sacrifice themselves to rescue their loved ones. We also wanted to tell people it was a brutal time in main dynasty, in ancient Chinese history brutality was filled within the upper class.

In an interview for The Bangkok Post in June you say that you; ‘have a strong belief that you're doing an entertainment production, nothing vulgar.’ Which explains why you stayed away from using hardcore pornography, but what about the sexual violence?

It is not as vulgar when compared to some occult Japanese films, we don’t even match the part. Hong Kong cinema in the 70’s and 80’s were even more violent and more vulgar than what we did today.

How do you think the comedy moments sit in with the high action violent scenes?

If I could have another 10 minutes of time to add to the film I think it would go well together. But it is a production request to make the run time match the majority of cinemas in Hong Kong because they have a time constraint. So the producer and myself had to make recuts to make the film a very tight package but this was not actually my original intention. I really wanted to have some pauses in between and make the things more relevant. It is much easier for the audiences to have pauses and at the moment the film is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, people don’t have sufficient time to react to what we’re going to tell them.

Do you think the violence is necessary in contributing to the films entertainment value?

The film is already a cult title so the audience know what they are going to see. But the graphic killings and comedy will be out of the blue. They should be prepared before they go in to see it, but also please look at the story itself. Although there are some elements that may not make some audiences feel pleasant such as the torture scenes but we have to see every different element as a whole and everything makes it stronger.

I always believe that sex goes with violence. Like if a boyfriend and girlfriend have sweet moments, they also quarrel and fight. So the violence is engineered in the love part. But the way that people deal with it is the thing we need to talk about. Just like the couple in the film when they first met they believed love at first sight. But they never thought about the sex bit. And when they have their first night together I thought his wife already knew he was kind of impotent. But she never complained, and that is the Chinese women’s virtue I believe. They never complain about their husbands, but the husband has done a lot of bad things to the relationship and almost broke the marriage. But still his wife is with him and that is the beauty of the thing. True love prevails and that is the virtue we would like to showcase to the audiences.

In the film, often lines are blurred between pleasure and pain. What message do you think this sends to the viewer?

I shall leave it to the audiences. I don’t want to elaborate on this kind of thing too much; otherwise people will say we are trying to exaggerate. To me the story telling itself is the most important part for 3D Sex and Zen. If the audience has any chance to go back and revisit the original Sex and Zen they can tell the story is much stronger and even more entertaining. A lot of European viewers find it too graphic but I really don’t think this is a fair judgement of my film, maybe the audiences have not seen the Lionsgate productions, that kind of stuff is really gross.

When we tried to put everything together I never thought my film would be released here in the UK. I’m feeling lucky now because some thirty years ago even Clockwork Orange was banned from the UK. That kind of stuff is nothing for our eyes today. I am not saying the censorship is too tight or the morality is too high it’s just that when people look into 3D sex and Zen do they want to go into the cinema to get an erection or do they want to go into the cinema to look at a great movie, that’s totally different languages we’re talking about.

In order to get the film into the UK you had two minutes of cuts. Do you think the some scenes still in the film could eroticise and endorse sexual violence?

Well to be honest that is a very controversial subject. When we try to shot those scenes we never thought that it would get cut away. Our original idea is to see how far it could go and we don’t have the different codes and practices from different countries, we didn’t study that kind of stuff. We just let the story go with the flow and that’s the reason for that stuff to happen. According to my knowledge Prince of Ning is actually a duke who is overtly violent and was a very crude man. During the main dynasty the noble people liked to do this kind of stuff to poor people and torture them. So this kind of stuff can actually be seen in Chinese history. So I don’t see that there is a problem, I’ve seen grosser stuff in Schindler's list and never thought it would get cut away. I just tried to make it as reasonable as it should be, but if that’s the decision of the authority we respect it.

On many occasions in the film the men appear to be pushing themselves onto the women.  Do you think the film is in danger of trivialising rape?

I don’t see the connection actually. It could be but that is the thing that Wei Yangsheng actually did, it came along with his character.

Do you think by including it the film is endanger of endorsing sexual violence?

We are not endorsing that kind of stuff but by including it film it would. But I believe the people who view the film would understand it’s being dramatised for the entertainment value.

Despite all the wrongs that Wei Yangsheng committed in the end he is the ‘good guy’ ending back in love and growing old with Tie. What kind of message do you think this sends to the viewer?

Sometimes we look at that stuff as a third party and judge them. We play those characters in real life - we do right stuff and do wrong stuff. At the very end people tend to be a better person, even though he did something wrong he will get forgiven if he wants to correct his wrong. Maybe it is the problem of the males in Chinese dynasty, they get married very young then have a lot of wives and concubines and mistresses but what would they do if they could have a time to face their original love.

Do you think that the violence towards women is in proportion to the violent scenes with men?

There is a lot of violence to the women and the men. From our perspective most of the penises get cut off - we made them not male again. So the idea of it is very funny.

But you also do a similar thing to the main female character and overall the violence towards the women is disproportionately graphic.

I never thought that people would be hugely offended by that. The torture scene is to portrait how brutal the Prince of Ling was to people he disliked. Maybe we treated the scene a little bit too graphical but it also earns the tears of the audiences and grows their hatred towards Prince of Ling.

Was that particular scene found in the book?

No, but there are other historical references that Chinese people are very good at torturing people with those kind of sex toys. We referenced those kinds of elements as the dynasty is filled with violence.




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