The Carnal Prayer Mat in 3D

From ‘In 3-D Harmony’, 30 March 2011, article by Boon Chan, Life! ST

Desire, debauchery and dirty sex are not the three Ds in Korean erotic drama Natali that will catch the attention of movie goers. It is its 3-D effects that will likely get tongues wagging…Tentatively scheduled for an April 28 release is 3D Sex and Zen, an update of the 1991 hit Hong Kong film based on the 17th century Chinese erotic novel, The Carnal Prayer Mat.

…Of the penchant of horror flicks to send sharp objects flying your way, film-maker Chai Yee Wei says: ‘Having things pop at you on screen is actually bad because it tires the eyes.’

(Vincent Lee, art director): The selling point of romances and dramas are the acting and script. In these cases, 3-D is a waste of money. I won’t watch a rom com in 3D.

After a slurry of sub standard offerings failing to meet the bar raised by Avatar, it’s inevitable that softporn’s next in line to jump head on into the 3D orgy. For what is already a one-dimensional narrative, stretching a cheap skin flick to a 3D experience which features nothing more than in-your-face bumping and grinding just means extended, plodding sex scenes and a script with as much dialogue as the opening credits have words.  Or scene after scene of unimaginative items being flung at the audience in excruciating slow motion. I suppose 3D is fun for kids encountering it for the first time, but unless adult Singaporeans still get a thrill out of reaching out to grasp things or ducking when spears are chucked at them, I just don’t see the long term appeal of what is essentially a juvenile capitalization of an accidental, though rather nifty, optical illusion.

Softporn, or slowporn, is like nibbling on bad junk food, and is best downloaded online for the juicy bits just so you can play the ‘pause and guess if they’re really doing it’ game, or appreciate the subtle masking effects of strategic lighting.  If films with titles like Sex and Zen weren’t given the stereoscopic treatment, they wouldn’t have made it to the major theatres at all, due to exploitative themes usually reserved for the less discerning Yangtze crowd. Now they’re suddenly elevated to mainstream status after being injected with the technological equivalent of girlie mag airbrushing, suggesting that this is all a money spinning gimmick banking on a insatiable appetite  for larger than life POV heaving and jiggling at the expense of decent film-making, not to mention a throbbing headache and splurging off a extra dollars which could otherwise be spent on a larger popcorn combo. I guess 3D movies have traditionally been the poor man’s virtual reality theme park, and they’re really more ‘romp-com’ than ‘rom-com’, to address Vincent Lee’s aversion towards seeing any part of Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan popping out of the big screen.

Incidentally, the first 3D film to hit Singapore was the 1953 horror flick The House of Wax (see the EXCITING, SENSATIONAL trailer below), and though poorly received initially as we were busy complaining about the prices of 3D glasses, Warner Brothers’ chief at the time Wolfe Cohen was prophetic with his prediction that 3D is here to stay (3D Film chief says Singapore audiences are lucky, 3 May 1953, ST). And so are overblown trashy films along with it, whose artistic merit one may overlook in exchange for the precious  experience of ‘sensing the chilling menace of kisses’.

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