utopia, noun - a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government and social conditions
From the opening dream-sequence of director-writer Scud’s vision of bliss on earth, there is no doubt that viewers are in for a highly stylized, wonderfully—at times courageously—honest study of living life as truly felt, rather than unwittingly directed by others.
Newcomer Adonis He as Hins, begins his cinematic career with copious amounts of full-frontal nudity that will keep the eyes of all sexes engaged and intrigued. Readily submitting himself to BDSM at the also alluring hands of a masked woman then man, turns up the heat and expectation for a film that will be neither shy nor prudish. (Curiously, a very few might press the off button wondering if they’ve inadvertently stumbled into a porn flick before realizing that Scud is a master of showing just enough to let the imagination fill in the blanks.) As the twentysomething (a plot point that veers a tad near the abyss of credibility in the closing sections) who begins to fall in love with his out-and-proud teacher, He must carry much of the film: whether struggling with his own demons or proving (mainly to himself) that he is 100% heterosexual—the release scene wordlessly says and shows it all—this actor turns in a performance that belies his inexperience.
Jackie Chow plays the philosophic, Greek-grounded cultural professor (Socrates’ “An unexamined life is not worth living” the oh-so-appropriate mantra) with a delightful sense of worldliness and unbridled lust that can’t help but lure his adoring student like a siren call into his life, circle and bed.
Dismayed that her boyfriend of three years (but never fully consummated, being Catholic after all—however hand jobs, in the tradition of Bill Clinton, are not deemed to be sinful sex), Fiona Wang tries her best but can’t find the same magic as the men, as she converts from “you are going to hell for that” to willing hedonist.
Rounding out the principals (without forgetting a shout out to Shui Jie as Hins’ stoic mom), Ching-Man Chin infuses the role of the mysterious other woman to all around her with a marvellous sense of laissez faire so long as no one gets hurt and everyone gets off (the only false note being her drunk “impression” with Hins’ at his part-time job as bartender).
There is obvious homage from Scud to novelist Mishima Yukio (whose groundbreaking works fire the imaginations and dreams of both student and teacher) and revered, unapologetic filmmaker Derek Jarman (most especially the beautifully crafted reference to Sebastiane: cross-reference below).
The original score is also very effective, particualry the use of solo cello at key dramatic moments.
For those who do try to examine their lives and not worry themselves with what others think about their sexual practices, inner desires—gamely ignoring the shackles of societal (as opposed to individual) taboos—the film will lift their spirits and send them off to another encounter whether fulfilling a need, learning from another, or both. For the rest, the production will temporarily allow them to live life vicariously through others then retreat to the apparent safety of their “normal” selves. JWR