Azdrama Hong Kong drama

Ripples of Desire - H - 2013Despite its lurid English title, Ripples of Desire is more feminist romance than bodice-ripper. Set on a floating island populated by pirates and lepers off the shores of 17th century Taiwan, the costumer questions the status of women, in a tale of talented but doomed sisters who have become indentured courtesans in the House of Flowers. A break from her lesbian-themed films like Spider Lilies which won the 2007 Teddy Award in Berlin for best feature, and with hetero erotic touches, it could earn Taiwanese filmmaker Chou Zero a broader fan base among festival goers and Asian film lovers.

Enwrapping melancholy Chinese lyricism in a dream-like atmosphere, Chou navigates the cruel horrors of the day, which include murder, leprosy, kidnapping and abject betrayal. Though potentially beautiful to watch, the exotic pleasures are sometimes marred by a narrative that is opaque in key scenes. Audiences will need to leap over these gaps to enjoy a haunting and original film.

More graceful that any geisha when she performs on stage at Madame Moon’s, White Snow (Michelle Chen, You Are the Apple of my Eye) enchants an audience of pirates and sea-faring travelers with her melancholy songs and heavenly voice. Singing love duets with her sister White Frost (Ivy Chen, the popular star of Hear Me), who wears a mask and dresses as a man, they are the top attraction for at the establishment of businesswoman Moon (bewigged Hong Kong actress Sandra Ng).

Though their after-show activities are glossed over, as trained courtesans they are a bare step up from common brothel personnel. (“Folk music is just an ornament for prostitutes, ” says Snow sadly.)

Moon still has feelings, as well as carnal relations, for her old but still burning flame, Master Hai. This larger-than-life figure, played by veteran actor Simon Yan of The Thieves, has rebelled against a Ming dynasty decree that forbids sea trading and is defiantly holed up with a motley crew aboard his outlawed ship. Though his pirate-like men don’t hesitate to kill for him, they have qualms about it afterwards, even his loyal henchman Scarface (model/pop singer Jerry Yan, costumed like an Asian Johnny Depp without the eye makeup.)

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