Adonis – A naked odyssey: Review by Jack Cline

From Hong Kong, this is a deliberate mix of arthouse drama and porn, as filmmaker Scud (real name Danny Cheng Wan-cheung) takes the audience on a sex-fuelled odyssey. It’s thoroughly watchable, because the imagery is exquisitely shot: the cast consists mainly of an army of fully naked Chinese muscle boys. The experimental tone might feel a bit pretentious, but the film looks great and is packed with themes that linger.

The title refers to Yang Ke (played by Adonis He), a dancer in the Beijing Opera who hasn’t been paid for six months. Just about to turn 30, he worries that his dancing days are behind him, so he seeks work as a model and actor. But everyone just wants him to get his kit off. Two photographers shoot nude pics in the street then run off with his clothes, and when he gets a part in an art movie it turns out to be a porno with a jaw-dropping gang-rape scene. His manager (Justin Lim) merely pushes him into even more risky sex work.

The film is a swirl of out-of-sequence images, including memories of happy days with a Western boyfriend (Daniel Benjamin) and scenes with his mother and a knowing aunt, leading up to a fateful encounter with a client (porn star Eric East). The film never shies from nudity, and He finds dark textures in the role that offer insight into his soul-destroying journey. So while the religious imagery (both Catholicism and Buddhism) is perhaps heavy-handed, the fact that Scud is raising these big ideas in such a creative way makes it well worth a look.

Adonis is available now on DVD and VOD.


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