Profiles Of Pleasure (1988)
Directed by: Tony Au
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Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1989:
Facing an upcoming ban on prostitution, the girls of the Floral Ode House struggle to find a footing as either content with the line of work or as wives. Already a sought out establishment by government officials, the British send Commissioner Cheng (Adam Cheng - Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain) to further investigate hands on. What he finds is that a ban possibly will come with unwanted consequences and not one but three women, Chin Chin (Rosamund Kwan - Once Upon A Time In China), Yuk Kiu (Nina Li - Tiger On The Beat) and Lily (Carina Lau - Intimates) respectively he possibly have connections with for the moment and harking back to childhood...
Dream Lovers still stands as Tony Au's immortal peak as director and Profiles Of Pleasure represents the attempt to continue a path as a filmmaker post acclaim (1*). Au always tried to re-team with personnel both in front of and behind the camera and although there's no Chow Yun-Fat or Brigitte Lin included here, there's a fairly well assembled core team carried over from Dream Lovers (2*). No one can take anything away from director of photography Bill Wong's work or even Au's double duty as art director but at the forefront is storytelling that registers limp.
Summed up as a playful romance/morality tale and history lesson, Profiles Of Pleasure offers up a scenario that isn't commercial (3*) and today won't be sought out if you initially understand the interest this production has in providing multiple facets to its viewers. I won't argue against that this tale can offer up an interesting time and that certain sections are enlightening but emotionally, Au leaves his audience cold.
Looking at the backdrop where the ban of prostitution is imminent reveals several strands that bear examination. Basically it's an initial, valid idea on writer Manfred Wong's behalf (4*)who then portrays the prostitutes possessing much instincts to either settle down or accept roles of cursed women who should focus on the business side of things. As a character proclaims in the film, "men only want to obtain your heart in order to obtain your body" and certainly that rings true in the hypocritical nature to the government officials. But really all involved are in their own way a little reserved about all this, wanting to maintain a relaxed, lighthearted stance towards life but the divided views historically didn't stop the British rule from carrying out the ban on prostitution in 1935. Tony Au does maintain interest when dealing with these matters, even in the prolonged table scene but with this subject only concentrated on, it's not so much a feature film and when focusing on what turns out to be a romance involving 3 women and 1 man, Profiles Of Pleasure reveals itself the most.
That reveal isn't pleasant because Au for all his fine showcasing of classic Chinese wear and attractive surroundings can't make the complications either funny or felt. It's not that he's way too much in love with his visuals or his own art direction. Perhaps it's a case of relying too much on the gorgeous women featured to carry his intentions home but it's a misguided direction. The questionable morals involved leads to questionable style but it's also part of the select few times Profiles Of Pleasure regains its interest level. Not a good sign. I do have to say that the various sections of nudity and sex scenes PROBABLY is a valid inclusion to further the thoughts on men and women in the film, but feel free to disagree.
Any movie with Rosamund Kwan. Nina Li or Carina Lau's presence shouldn't register as boring however but when much is flat, their given direction can't be much enhanced by these actresses at least. Kwan pulls of the elegance with ease though and opposite her, Adam Cheng shows more of a flair for eccentric behaviour, as opposed compared to his otherwise stoic characters in films and TV.
Tony Au had a lot to live up to and maybe rightly didn't bother to think of the things done right with Dream Lovers 2 years prior. However Profiles Of Pleasure takes an interesting history lesson not so much further than that. Design and cinematography is showcased to a very fine degree as well as the immortal beauties of our leading ladies but you'd be hard pressed to feel anything but only slightly satisfied. Sadly it was the beginning of a decline for a filmmaker whose career was in fact uneven. If you have Dream Lovers and A Roof With A View on your resume however, you shouldn't be too ashamed to have achieved that rank.
Deltamac presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 approximately. Print has light wear, colours are little pale but overall seems to showcase the fairly eye popping design of the film well.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 track has decent clarity and no other bothersome traits. A Mandarin Dolby 2.0 track is also included.
The English subtitles has a few spelling errors but remain comprehensible for the entire running time. Some symbols and numbers has made their way into a few sentences but it's not distracting. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available. Only extra is the trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(2) Writer Manfred Wong co-wrote Duel To The Death back in the day but more recently produced and penned the Young And Dangerous series for director Andrew Lau. Cinematographer Bill Wong has lent his eye to The Sword, The Story Of Woo Viet and Full Moon In New York.
(3) This film was however one of Tony Au's biggest box office hits. Presumably due to an attractive cast of ladies because this "intelligent" material rarely goes down well with a larger crowd of movie goers.
(4) The source material was actually a famous 1930s novel called "Tracing the Flower Business in Hong Kong's West End" by Laurence Law. Flower business being a reference to prostitution. Rouge writers Lillian Lee & Yau Daai On Ping used Law's work as an inspiration as well. Thanks to reader andras for contributing this info.