Intimate Confessions Of A Chinese Courtesan (1972)
Directed by Chu Yuan
Written by Chiu Kang-Chien
Produced by Runme Shaw
Starring Lily Ho, Betty Pei Ti, Yueh Hua
Release Date: April 22, 2008
In the snowy mountains of China lies a brothel run by the iron-fisted Lady Chun, where girls who have been kidnapped are brought and sold into a life of sex and servitude. Among the latest batch of girls is the fiery and wild Ainu, who refuses to accept her ill fate and tries desperately to escape time and time again. Chun, whose reputation as a lesbian and a hater of men is legendary, becomes instantly infatuated with Ainu and uses all her resources to break her, including auctioning off Ainu’s virginity to a group of wealthy and salacious men.
With Ainu’s spirit finally broken and her newfound life accepted, Chun begins to bathe Ainu with lavish gifts and training in both pleasure and martial arts in hopes of winning her heart. While at first Ainu seems all to willing to accept her gifts and training, it is all in an effort to position herself so that she may unleash her brutal acts of revenge. Her first targets include the very men who bid upon her, but her ultimate plan includes bringing down Lady Chun using what Chun desires most – Ainu’s love. Her plan culminates with a desperate attack on the brothel using her newly mastered martial arts skill, and only when the snow-covered ground is stained red with blood will she feel satisfied!
Let the movie title role off your tongue. It is a glorious title that hints of sex, lust and revenge. Guided by the sure and steady directing hand of Chu Yuan (also known as Chor Yuen), arguably one of the Shaw Brothers greatest directors, and written by Chiu Kang-Chien, one of the Shaw Brothers most prolific and impressive writers, this multi-genre picture delivers in spades more than can possibly be imagined. At the time of the movie’s original release in 1972, it was a shocking and boundary-breaking picture with its unabashed portrayal of lesbianism and jaw-dropping over-the-top violence.
Set among the lush sets of the Shaw Brothers studios and filled with characters donned in gorgeous period costumes, lies a story that counterbalances this beauty with a hard-to-watch perversity. Filled with an equal balance of sex and violence, Intimate Confessions can be seen as a prototype for the cruel rape/revenge sub-genre that was beginning to show up in theatres around the world at the time. Though there are several scenes that border and deliberately cross the lines of bad taste, including a scene in which some of the “new arrivals” at the brothel are tested to ensure they are still virgins, it is all a build up to the uber-violent conclusion that allows the viewer to cheer for the tormented heroine Ainu as cuts a path through swordsman after swordsman
Chu Yuan, who has given martial arts fans some of their all-time favorites such as The Magic Blade and Killer Clans, teases the audience throughout the beginning of the film with small tastes of vicious violence and wonderfully choreographed training sequences. This dam of martial arts energy is unleashed as a deluge of graphic violence and near-comical dismemberment at the end of the movie that easily equates to anything found in the Lone Wolf And Cub and Lady Snowblood series in Japan. Blood sprays everywhere as henchmen fall to wrath the vengeful sword tip of Ainu. And when it is finally down to a one-on-one confrontation with Lady Chun and her deadly chest-puncturing “Ghost Hands” technique, the fun truly begins!
Lily Ho and Betty Pei Ti, who respectively play Ainu and Lady Chun, are both from Taiwan and light up the screen with fury and sexuality. By this time, Lily Ho had been a Shaw Brothers staple and was known for her ability to ignite her scenes with desire, whether it was as an assassin The Lady Professional or as a sultry co-star in romantic musicals like Hong Kong Nocturne. Betty Pei Ti, on the other hand, makes her film debut here, and what a debut it is! To undertake such a controversial role for your screen debut and succeed is worthy of applause. Additionally, Betty Pei Ti’s natural command over the screen is enchanting. Together, this pair form an irresistible and unbalanced chemistry that is impossible to resist, and keeps the screen sizzling for most of its ninety minute running time.
At times shocking, Intimate Confessions never goes too far with its disregard for human dignity, and even relies on freeze frames and the viewer’s imagination rather than show the despicable acts of the movie. Likewise, the eroticism never goes to far, and equally relies on the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks. It allows the film to remain as entertaining as possible, even at its lowest points, by interjecting melodramatic overacting and allows the audience to feel satisfaction along with Ainu as she begins to unravel her revenge. This dish is not served cold but red hot instead, and it is oh so delicious.
Porting over another remastered print from the Hong Kong company Celestial Pictures, Image Entertainment continues to provide martial arts fans some of the best movies from the vaults of the Shaw Studios. As with their previous releases, Intimate Confessions sports a spotless transfer with bold and stunning colors, and the original Mandarin soundtrack with English subtitles (an English dub is also provided).
Image provides an exciting array of classic Hong Kong movie trailers as one of the main extras on the DVD. These include sixteen trailers specifically focusing on the Shaw Studios and thirteen additional trailers with a focus on martial arts and action, though unfortunately are identical to the ones found on their previous martial arts releases. Also included is a featurette entitled “Intimate Confession Of Three Shaw Girls” which compiles modern day interviews with Shaw Yin Yin, Lily Ho, and Lily Li as they look back on the importance of female characters in classic martial arts films.
Intimate Confessions would later go on to inspire the Hong Kong cult classic Naked Killer, and now over thirty-five years since its original theatrical release in Hong Kong, may finally get its true representation here in the United States. This is a genuine gem to be discovered, so do yourself a favor and let Ainu into your heart. Just don’t betray her.