After conjuring up playful, funny and erotic imagery for Shaw Brothers in the form of The Girl With The Long Hair 2 years earlier, the equally skilled comedic and visual director Ho Fan's 1977 Innocent Lust comes loaded with expectations therefore. Sadly, aside from some visual flexing, this is standard youth romance tedium that just happens to feature nudity. And that isn't even a very delightful inclusion.
A very loose frame story concerns three friends (Ngaai Fei, Chan Jun Ho & Lam Choi) attending university but finding it hard to attract girls. Favouring studies over girls though, a few encounters with older women and fellow students (Hoh Yin & Chan Wai-Ying) equals the sexual and romantic awakening. But who out of the trio loves who, will they love the women and will they love them back? Drama.
Being a Shaw Brothers movie, the scope frame never feels below competent but Ho Fan is more sporadic with his visual playtime here and most of Innocent Lust, despite short, is a bunch of long and tedious scenarios. Everything from going to an erotic massage and paying for hostesses at a club, these represents failed attempts for the trio to appear adult. To be fair, as expected these young adults look at the prospect of sexuality through the eyes of fantasy so that is a cue for a later wake up and snap into reality. They are hormonal and partly Ho Fan has fun with the dips into fantasty-style sequences.
But it feels choppy and takes a good while to get going but one gives Ho Fan a chance initially when trying to be sweetly romantic using his main five characters. Any director should try out various templates and even though in an overall sense Innocent Lust is Ho Fan's territory in this decade and even subsequent, it's curiously innocent. Part of the movie does feel insecure, leading to thoughts that maybe Ho Fan wasn't allowed to be AS adult but there are stylized sequences of sex that at least makes him and cinematographer Yu Chun flex some creative muscles (in particular the use of light).
It's all like a carefully composed, erotic photograph and on a scene by scene basis, some things work. Characteristics like the trio of friends really encouraging each other is a welcome kind side but any romantic or dramatic edge attempted falls rather flat. Don't look for affection in soap drama made as a film. Ho Fan mild is not skilled enough to pull that off. One or two scenes added to the show reel, that's it.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson