I've stated several times on here that I tend to eat, breathe and sleep Asian cinema. I'll give everything a spin in my DVD player, whether horror, action, comedy or drama, on the one condition that it comes from the East. I don't care if its Japan, China, Korea or even Thailand, I've liked lots more than I haven't and still actively seek out new releases. In the case of Colour Blossoms (a.k.a "Color Blossoms," a.k.a. "Toh Sik"), seeing eclectic Hong Kong director Fruit Chan's name attached as Producer immediately piqued my curiosity. While the film's director, former fashion photographer Yon Fan, definitely has a gifted and arresting visual style, I was disappointed by the weak story.
Colour Blossoms, while a Hong Kong production, gathers an attractive cast of pan-Asian models including the Chinese beauty, Teresa Cheung, male Japanese model, Sho, and the gorgeous Korean cult-icon, Ha Ri-su. His casting choices shouldn't be a surprise, since Yon Fan seems to care more about how his films look than their meaning. Luckily for him, the models spend less time talking than they do just looking good, and in a film that's about the darker side of love, having objects of lust is a great starting point. Specifically, Colour Blossoms is about the lengths we are willing to go for love. From the pangs of lust to the twisted cruelty of obsession, the intricate dynamics of pleasure and pain found in S&M, and the forbidden temptations of homo/lesbo erotica.
Mei Li (Cheung) is a Hong Kong real estate agent whose latest client, the eccentric, Japanese diva, Madame Umeki (played by eccentric, Japanese diva Keiko Matsuzaka) has asked her to find a renter for her elegant Prince Terrace apartment in her absence. As soon as Mei Li steps foot in the place, however, strange feelings seem to take hold of her. Could it be the underlying influence of the lavish apartment's many priceless antiquities? The apartment becomes a portal, if you will, by which Mei Li travels to a time where she can be free to live a life of decadence and fantasy, very much like Mme Umeki herself. For it is here, in this world of fantasy that she experiences her true nature, for, as the film repeats over and over and over, man is an animal. Meeting Ken (Sho), Mme Umeki's former lover, Mei Li quickly becomes enamored of him, but also finding herself falling under the lustful spell of a nameless, speechless police officer, #4708 (Carl Ng).
Playing with our preconceived ideas of human nature and desire (gee, that's a new concept), Yon Fan begins to manipulate the characters, pairing them off with one another in increasingly elaborate situations. We find Mei Li fall under the tutelage of Mistress Umeki in the ways of S&M. #4708 is always present, watching Mei Li in a voyeuristic pattern, following her to the very door of the Prince Terrace apartment. Mei Li shares Ken with a much younger Umkei (Ri-su) as they make love throughout time. Ken and #4708 meet time and again in the back alleys of Hong Kong for some casual encounters. The gloves come off, or on actually, as the S&M theme becomes dominant. The dark side of love is laid bare as nothing but pain, but through which we can transcend into pleasure.
The idea of pain being a universal truth which one can embrace and derive pleasure from is not a new one. The very nature of human beings and their ability to change themselves, as in the capacity to adapt something which is in place as a protective device, that of pain, and use it to feel alive, transcending the pain reflex and turning it to pleasure. This is something that I heard talked about time and again in the documentary Headspace, which featured actual practitioners of B&D/S&M and why they did it. Certainly the R-rated couplings and stylized vignettes of Colour Blossoms can't hold a candle to the real life exploits of the whips and chains crowd, but it also just scratches the surface of what is certainly an edgy and fascinating subject. Even with the dark and somewhat poetic ending, Yon Fan leaves us hanging, just wishing for something meaning to it all. Like the characters in Colour Blossoms, you will be unfulfilled and left wanting.
Picture: The film is presented in a 16:9 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer looks absolutely amazing, with a beautiful visual aesthetic to much of the shot structures, and several colorful, eye-catching visual effects as well.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Track (w/English subs) sounds great. There is also a DTS Digital Surround track included. Not surprisingly for such an eclectic cast, but several languages are spoken throughout the film including Mandarin, Japanese and English. The soundtrack is also quite good and very evocative of the different moods that Yon Fan establishes onscreen.
Extras: Included as Extras on this 2-DVD set are a "Making-of" featurette, the "Solo River Blues" music video, biographies of the cast and crew (in Chinese), a stills gallery and the Original Theatrical Trailers.
Conclusion: There is no arguing that Colour Blossoms is a gorgeous looking movie, but the reason it looks so good is also the reason the movie is so bad. Director and former fashion photographer, Yon Fan, gives us style over substance. Not surprisingly, many directors suffer from this problem especially here in the U.S. In fact, I'd say that that is Hollywood's biggest problem right now, and one which has had me gravitating more and more to the slew of high-quality Asian imports. That being said, this is the Uncut Version of the film, so those of you that are fans of Yon Fan or this film already may want to pick it up. For the rest of you out there, feel free to Skip It.