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By Phil Hall | July 16, 2008

Don’t be fooled by the salacious title of Annemarie Gallone’s documentary. The love and sex being presented here is only seen in brief peeks of classical erotic art and contemporary girlie magazines.

For the most part, this verbose production talks and talks and talks endlessly to a variety of Chinese people on their views about love, marriage, family and commitment. Not surprisingly, there is a distinctive generation gap chasm between the conservative elderly Chinese who came of age during the repressive Maoist era and today’s free-spending youth, who are taking advantage of Western-style ideas in their pursuit of emotional and carnal happiness. Even one of China’s most rigid taboos, the open discussion of homosexuality, is very slowly being disassembled due to a new sense of government tolerance.

The subject is certainly interesting, but the film makes the lethal mistake of allowing Chinese journalist Yang Li Ne to serve as on-screen host and narrator. Yang’s interviewing skills appear to be very weak, as her quotidian questions (“Do you love your wife?”) spark nothing but shallow responses (“Yes, I do!”). Furthermore, she weighs down the film with her own irrelevant baggage (she offers in-depth talk about her failed marriage).

There is only section when the film genuinely comes to life: during a very brief discussion on China’s prostitution industry, which supposedly generates 6% of the national revenue. However, that segment is limited to quickie glimpses of porno videos, sex toys and two somewhat conservatively dressed young women who wave to the camera from the lobby of a beauty parlor (they may be prostitutes, but it is never confirmed).

All told, “Love and Sex in China” is a flaccid experience.

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