Dreams of Stardom
Director Scud is known for his erotically outrageous films (“VOYAGE”, “UTOPIANS”, “AMPHETAMINE”) “Adonis”, his seventh feature. It’s the story of Yang Ke (Adonis He Fei), an actor with the Beijing Opera, whose dreams of stardom are fading now that he’s pushing 30. He loses his job and is down on his luck and he finds himself answering ads for “nude outdoor model” gigs and soon ends up participating in what will become his ticket to fame or infamy: a gay porn film that becomes a sensation in the underground. As Ke descends further and further into a world of hedonism as a hotly desired sex worker, he finds himself increasingly emotionally detached. When he accepts the invitation of a mysterious, masked client (played by gay porn star Eric East) on his 30th birthday, even he might have reached his limits.
The line between soft-core porn and pompous art-house cinema grows ever finer in “Adonis” a film intended as a philosophical statement about the meaninglessness of life. Adonis Yang Ke has the responsibility to care for his ailing mother (Nora Miao Ke-hsiu) and he puts blind trust in his manager (Justin Lim) who sees him work as a nude model and prostitute.
The first hour provides the director with an excuse to indulge in various sexual fantasies and we see everything from bondage and S&M to body sushi and a mass orgy through the eyes of Adonis, who is subsequently gang-raped by some 30 men during a studio appointment yet Adonis is neither traumatized nor even angry with his manager.
The story begins to take shape in the second half where the characters are at least occasionally clothed. Adonis’s mother dies, he opens a bar, he meets a hot Caucasian man and then the film takes an incredibly grisly turn to ponder the religious dimension of existence.
Neither of the religions evoked come out unscathed. While the most heinous crimes happen to Adonis when he’s tied to a cross, the film attempts to explain away its tragic non-story with Buddhist ideas.
All off Scud’s films feature sculpted male bodies and sex appeal. But besides this, they also deal with controversial topics such as drugs, depression, attraction towards straight men, and even philosophical and religious issues. The message here is that Adonis’ experience makes him reflect on his own existence. In one scene, 30 men restrain the main character and tie him to a cross. The actor’s height and delicate features reminded us of the Greek god Adonis, the god of desire. This story, full of twists, has allowed this Adonis to show off a wider acting range. We also meet Eric East, a famous Chinese gay porn star. Scud invited Eric to play a role because of his outstanding and eye-catching appearance.” You will never find another man like him,” Scud said. “Although he only appears for a few minutes he plays a very important role. There are two other actors who are striking— Alan Tang and Ding Yu-Sheng. Scud and his actors see nudity as a man’s entirety. One can tell if a man has a beautiful or sexual aura to attract the audience once he stands out.
The film is composed of parts. Without one of the parts, the entirety no longer exists. The actors are very professional and have a strong desire for performance. The theme of “Adonis” is the understanding of life and death from a Buddhist perspective. Scud’s work fearlessly presents gay men’s lives and spirits. Gay men’s desires are about not only lust but also their connection with life. We see the ups and downs of a gay man who wants to be a super star. When he finally finds his place and lands his dream job, he faces a turning point in his life. The character may be gay, but the subject matter will resonate with everyone. It relates to sex, love, life, and death. Once one begins a journey, one will do his best until the end.