Although not exactly famous for erotic films, particularly considering the conservative nature of many countries and the harsh censorship occasionally found (with the exception of Japan and Korea), films that could be described as erotic can be found in Asia also. Of note, however, is a recent trend that has begun within the Japanese movie industry, of presenting erotic films that try to cater to the aesthetics of both men and women, while abiding by the MeToo rules, with the result being interesting as much as ambitious as much as an effort mostly found in Chinese cinema, to come up with titles that combine the erotic with the intensely art house.
In this compilation, our aim was to highlight titles that prominently feature eroticism, while avoiding any content that could be considered exploitative or resembling soft-porn (which is prevalent in South Korean cinema). Instead, we have focused on “mainstream” films that incorporate this element in order to arouse or convey a message.
Here are 12 captivating Asian erotic films from 2023, listed in no particular order.
The film’s cinematography, helmed by Ash Chen, is a standout element, showcasing a voyeuristic style that is executed flawlessly. This technique is utilized not only in the erotic scenes, but also in other moments, including the memorable peeing sequence. The intimate shots of the sexual encounters heighten the movie’s titillating factor, while the depiction of the consistently vacant restaurant adds a neo-noir, dystopian tone. Qin Yanan’s editing further enhances this feeling, as the cuts create a sense of disorientation that adds to the overall impact of the film.
Koji Shiraishi’s method, which combines elements of sensuality, S&M, drama, romance, and mockumentary in the style of Roman Porno, proves to be quite captivating as he skillfully handles each aspect. This is no easy feat. Additionally, the series’ objective of relaunching to feature erotic films that are grounded in reality and appeal to female audiences is successfully achieved here. Shiraishi delves into the concept of BDSM and its modern day practice, as well as the psychology of those involved in the field. While the depiction of the “owner arc” and the idea of openly embracing one’s perversions may seem exaggerated and reminiscent of manga, it is the only aspect of the story that goes to such extremes.
The movie begins with Ye-eun being exploited by her husband in a mix of sex, violence, and voyeurism, as observed by Ji-hoon (previously mentioned as a Kim Ki-duk element). As the film progresses, Sabu shifts the focus to the reasons behind the actions of the two men, primarily Ji-hoon but also briefly touching on Hyung-oh. Ji-hoon’s backstory is intriguing, delving into both social and psychological factors that led him to become a voyeur. However, no justification is given for his behavior. Similarly, Hyung-oh is a violent man who mistreats his patients and wife, even preventing her from visiting her sick father. Yet, he is also portrayed as dependent and lonely throughout his life. This is not meant to excuse his actions, but rather to provide insight into his character. Ultimately, the psychiatrist remains the antagonist of the film.
The subject matter of the movie is challenging, but Bunji Sotoyama manages to handle it with sensitivity and realism. One of the movie’s strengths is its exploration of the similarities between elderly and young sex workers, including issues with difficult customers, pressure to appear younger, and performance problems. This aspect alone could carry the movie, but Sotoyama takes it further by delving into the motivations of the young characters, particularly Mana, who becomes a central figure in the story. The interactions between the two groups, the elderly and the youths, are also depicted, providing a well-rounded portrait of the characters and their experiences. Overall, Sotoyama has done an excellent job in portraying this complex subject matter and its individual characters.
Through the characters and plot, Behl portrays a number of pessimistic but realistic views on Indian society. The film presents a bleak depiction of a society that is filled with violence, cheating, obsession with sex, and overall lack of morality. The characters’ lack of concern for Guru’s mental health also sheds light on the larger issue of mental health in the country. It is also suggested that sex serves as a temporary solution for all of society’s problems, though this idea borders on fantasy and is brought back to reality in the final scenes.
The idea of normality is a disguise in Lana’s story, and this becomes clear early on. As we learn more about the relationships between the characters, we see that they are based on exploitation, dependence, and deceit. This creates a tense and explosive dynamic, especially in the intimate scenes where manipulation and power play a major role. The characters have become accustomed to this way of life, even the new arrival Oliver fits into the pattern perfectly. However, eventually everything reaches a breaking point and violence ensues. It is disturbing to see the characters unable or unwilling to break this destructive cycle. (Rouven Linnarz)
7. MOP by Joon Goh (Malaysia)
Movies that center on eroticism and S&M are not frequently seen in films from ASEAN nations, especially Malaysia which has strict regulations on cinema content. Despite this, Joon Goh successfully presents a movie that tackles these topics in a subtle yet impactful manner.
8. Who’ll Stop the Rain by Su I-hsuan (Taiwan)
“Lily Lee, portraying Chi-wei, delivers a convincing performance in both her confusion over the triangle and her determination towards the chairman and a fellow classmate’s advances. Her chemistry with Yeh is superb, particularly in the tastefully executed erotic scenes, which are among the film’s highlights. This is also reflected in her coming-of-age journey.”
Daigo Matsui helms a film that adheres to the traditional pinku rule of incorporating erotic scenes, but manages to do so in a natural and non-pornographic way that seamlessly fits into the overall story. This is quite a difficult task, but Matsui impressively incorporates the erotic elements into a “typical” Japanese independent drama, making it clear that he has succeeded in his attempt. As evident from the numerous comments, the film strikes a balance between titillation and commentary.
Sonoko Kakiuchi is the owner of a boutique clothing store and she runs it with the help of her husband, Kotaro, who is a dentist. One day, Sonoko asks Kotaro to introduce her to a good model and he suggests a young woman named Mitsuko, who used to work as a waitress at a coffee shop he visited. Sonoko is immediately drawn to Mitsuko and decides to photograph her for a new clothing line. The photoshoot is a success and the clothes modeled by Mitsuko become popular among young customers. As they continue working together, Sonoko and Mitsuko become close friends and are often mistaken for sisters. One day, they go on a drive to the beach for another photoshoot and end up staying until dusk. As their lips lock, Sonoko’s suppressed feelings for Mitsuko come to the surface and they end up making love. However, their intimate moment is interrupted by Mitsuko’s boyfriend, Eiji, who arrives at the store. Despite knowing about their relationship, Eiji suggests that they share Mitsuko. Around the same time, Kotaro discovers evidence of their affair… (CD Japan)
11. Scud’s tribe, Tribe Hong Kong, in the Naked Nations series (located in Hong Kong)
The film “Naked Nations – Tribe Hong Kong Story” is a love story that focuses on two individuals, one of whom is often nude and happens to be the filmmaker himself. This can be seen as a tribute to the actors in his past films and a nod to his previous works. The inclusion of lengthy and realistic sex scenes adds to the overall aesthetic of the film, with the camera not shying away from showing every detail. These scenes also serve to give context to what could be seen as a self-indulgent display of male nudity, making it a clever aspect of the narrative.