In the age of the internet porn, there’s no need to watch some mulleted guy called Hans make paper-thin excuses to fix a fridge; you can just jump straight to the good stuff. If you do like the plots though, James Gunn’s brilliant internet short series PG Porn is hilarious and also features real porn stars (while also being handily work safe and blissfully short).
Sex & Zen on the other hand is occasionally funny but punishingly long and has all the eroticism of a damp hand towel. It’s in roughly the same vein as the first Sex & Zen movie released in 1991 (now somewhat a notorious cult classic) and follows the exploits of the Chinese scholar Wei Yangsheng. Unable to satisfy his new bride, he makes a pilgrimage to the hideout of an outlaw called The Prince of Ning, who in exchange for some help appraising stolen valuables, gives him access to his well-stocked brothel.
While there he encounters the Elder of Bliss, a mythical being in the shape of a beautiful woman but one that speaks with a man’s voice and has a 10 foot long prehensile penis which can destroy a cartwheel (really). In exchange for its teachings, Wei agrees to transplant his tiny penis with that of a horse’s and things are looking up (hur hur) until the beast demands he steal from the Prince’s treasury.
Meanwhile, there’s a hard to follow subplot in which Wei former bride falls for another suitor, the Emperor’s troops invade and the Prince goes a little bit Marquis De Sade and starts hacking penises off left right and centre. House Of Flying Daggers this ain’t.
Sex & Zen was a huge hit in Hong Kong – outperforming Avatar in its first week. Obviously Hong Kong audiences have a craving for 3D breasts which western audiences seem to lack. The plot is plainly ridiculous but does manage to raise a few laughs – the centre piece of the movie has Wei smashing statues with his newly transplanted man-pole while a gaggle of nubile young ladies clamour for his attention. There’s a certain farcical delight to be had by its brazen crassness.
But if you’ve come for titillation then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Nothing about this erotic or even explicit, unless plenty of boobs, some fake sex noises and bed sheets placed over turgid CGI horse cocks feature heavily in your wildest dreams (here’s a hint: dream harder). Any episode of True Blood is 10 times more erotic.
It’s also way too long. PG Porn works because it’s about two minutes long – Gunn wisely knows these kinds of jokes have a very limited shelf life. Sex & Zen sprawls over two hours.
The BBFC have cut some of the nastier elements but it’d still be quite offensive if it were possible to take it seriously for one second. But the whole thing’s so plainly silly that that’s never going to be a danger. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to smash down lampposts on Oxford Street with my eight-foot thunder pole.