Dir/scr:Yonfan. HK-Chi. 2004. 106mins.

A glorified soap opera wrapped up in silk, satin anddisrobed models, Yonfan's Color Blossoms will be hailed by his faithfuladmirers as a stylish melodrama about over-ripe divas, fresh ingenues and sexyhulks, whose fleeting basis in reality is a springboard for magnificent flightsof decadent fancy. Just imagine an Asian version of Fassbinder that has goneway way over the top. Other audiences may well dismiss it as yet another glossyand kinky potboiler, restricted at best to adult cinemas.

Featuring glamorous starsadorned in low-neck high-slit attire that the fashion press would die for, itproves the perfect vehicle for cognoscenti who will doubtless appreciate thesexual balance achieved by a cast of two men, two women and one stunninglyvoluptuous transsexual, all clashing, splashing and crashing in a dreamy HongKong love nest.

Specialised theatricaldistribution is recommended, the gay market is a natural target and late nightTV slots go without saying. The performance from Teresa Cheung, who only justlost out to Zhang Ziyi (2046) for the Hong Kong film Critics' award forBest Actress, can only help.

Meili (Cheung), anattractive young Hong Kong real-estate agent, is about to sell a property tothe elegant Madame Umeki (Keiko Matsuzaka), a high society lady with amysterious past. To clinch the deal, however, Meili has to find a suitable tenantfor Madame Umeki's other flat.

But when she steps into thatapartment, however, Meili also enters Madame's past, meeting sexy Japanesephotographer Kim (Sho), who used to be Madame's lover and has magicallypreserved his youth through the years.

If this all sounds tooelementary then there are also two more characters. One is a neighbourhoodpoliceman (Ng), whose presence is explained by Meili's fantasies about hunkycops.

The other is the youngerversion of Madame Umeki (Harisu), brought back from the past for a revival ofher 30-year-old torrid affair with Kim. Arranged in couples, threesomes andmore, the five characters are thrown into a vortex of lust that recognisesneither sexual nor time barriers, driving towards a tragic climax which could beconstrued as a tribute to Oshima's classic Empire Of The Senses.

Yonfan's approach to thiskind of story is nothing if not stylised. He shoots everything in soft focus,his camera languidly moving along deserted alleys and sliding up and down thehot, sweaty and bothered bodies of his cast as he dotes on their radiant skins,their heavily painted lips and the smallest of details to enhance the steamyatmosphere. Gradually he piles up a surfeit of atmosphere, be it related to thesets, colours, the glamour or the sex.

But the film suffers fromtoo much of everything here, from the gushing overflow of Surender Sodhi'smusic, through the showers of sakura blossoms decorating Wang Yu's luxuriantimages to the colour of the wallpapers and the interior design of ManLim-Chung, which does not leave one square inch of the set undecorated.

The lead quintet, workingwith the fierce dedication of models on a fashion shoot, pose with strikingvengeance, always conscious of the caressing lens pointed at their physique.

Theresa Cheung's enticingpresence as the prototype ingenue holds the promise of many similar parts tocome, while Matsuzaka grandly suggests a Norma Desmond of the Far East.Harisu's undulating walk confirms her reputation as the leading transsexualstar of the Orient.

Production company
Far Sun Film Corp

International sales
Far Sun Corp

Fruit Chan

Wang Yu

Kwong Chit-Leung
Tin Samfat
Lam Wah-Chuen

Production design
Man Lim-Chung

Surender Sodhi

Main cast
Keiko Matsuzaka
Teresa Cheung
Sho Carl Ng