Lover of the Last Empress

Another movie that has no real purpose besides the pleasure of watching Chingmy. Sometimes that's all I need. It also stars Tony Leung Ka- Fai  amd Yu Rong Guong , but this movie belongs to Chingmy from beginning to end.
She plays a lowly concubine who conspires in a very Machiavellian way to become the first wife and we get to watch her learn from a prostitute how to be sexy and seductive so that this can be accomplished. That was a real stretch for Chingmy! Chingmy just looks so sexy in this film even when she is doing evil things to people. Certainly this ranks as one of Chingmy's biggest tease films. Chingmy like Amy Yip is very provocative without ever actually resorting to nudity. How she manages to do this here is amazing to see.

My rating for this film: 6.0


Reviewed by YTSL

Chingmy Yau in a movie that, IMHO, fully deserves its Category III rating.  Yes, she is definitely the centerpiece of this Wong Jing production.  No, she doesn't ever get fully naked (but the breasts -- including two points, as Sanney Leung would say! -- of at least one other woman (Yvonne Yung Hung?) do get exposed at some stage of this 1995 effort).  Yes, the actress best known for having starred in "Naked Killer" does perform a mean strip tease (one which is definitely more sensual -- though shorter in length -- than the practice and "actual" attempt she did in "I'm Your Birthday Cake") in this film...in a temple (or at least a religious area within the Imperial Palace)...for a naked Chinese Emperor (played by the rather hunky -- and surprisingly hairy chested -- Yu Rong Guang).  There also is an...interesting...scene when Chingmy's body gets liberally smeared with oil...by two clearly expert-at-their-craft prostitutes who her character -- at that point, a lowly concubine; but someone who would eventually become the infamous last Dowager Empress -- hired to teach how to pleasure others (as well as herself).
There's a part of me that thinks that I might as well stop right here in my review of LOVER OF THE LAST EMPRESS as most readers will already either have run off to get a copy of the video (or decided that this
movie is absolutely not for them).  Perhaps it is not an entirely unrelated fact that, as it is, it is already longer than many other descriptions floating around the Internet of this Andrew Lau directed effort; something which might explain why this particular (re)viewer of this Ching Dynasty period piece that obviously took liberties with characterizations of historic figures was actually unprepared for the fact that it really DOES consist of more than "just" scenes for titillation and of fornication (More than by the way, and this gives you some idea of the film's main character, they definitely are sex -- rather than love -- scenes).
LOVER OF THE LAST EMPRESS is surely not meant to be taken as entirely heavy serious fare (even if some sections of it may actually bring to mind certain sections of "Raise the Red Lantern", "Farewell My
Concubine" and "The Last Emperor").  On the other hand, it was way less fluffy as well as light-hearted than I thought it would be.  For one thing, it actually contains quite a bit of dramatic dialogue and sections of court intrigue.  For another, I am not kidding when I state that there are some startling violent acts (ranging from lip sewing to human and cat boiling) as well as sensual scenes in what might not be all that inaccurately -- even if somewhat inadequately -- described as a woman's revenge drama.  Moreover, it really does have an initially amusing but then mainly chilling rather than moving story which centers -- the film's (English) title not withstanding -- on a woman who ascended to the position of empress after  undergoing quite a bit of shock and humiliation by learning to be ruthless (and murderous) and connive as well as exercise what the subtitles memorably specified as "the power of her pussy"!
Without a doubt, Chingmy Yau dominates an offering which despite its (English) title, is more about the last Empress than (any of) her lover(s).  Still, whenever he is on screen,  Tony Leung Kar Fai -- as the princely court official who unwittingly created a Frankenstein monster when he told a then frightened lady that she had to learn how to sexually satisfy his brother, the Emperor, and outwit others in the Palace in order to not be doomed to lead an unsatisfactory life is hard to ignore (His presence also bestows this Category IIIer with added class).  In his (non-fighting) role as the Emperor whose fate it was to be given the Yau character as one of his concubines, Yu Rong Guang shows that he does have dramatic capabilities.  And although her role as the senior but son-less Empress is a minor one, Valerie Chow makes her character the most humane as well as saddest of the lot; and consequently leaves a touching lingering presence on the film and this (re)viewer's memory.
For better or worse, LOVER OF THE LAST EMPRESS was actually not the rather brainless fun romp that I thought that it would be.  Rather, this somewhat flawed but still hardly forgettable film is the hardest  edged and coldest feeling of any Chingmy Yau movie I have seen (For the record:  This is number 11!).  While it may not be completely enjoyable to watch an actress I tend to usually think of as unusually cute and chipmunky playing someone who transforms from a naive girl to a heartless woman, I think her performance (not just that in "Hold You Tight") in this at times disturbing -- rather than purely entertaining -- movie gives ample evidence that her acting abilities have really been unfairly under-rated by too many.

My rating for the film:  7.