Golden Lotus is based, in part, on Jin Ping Mei, a famous erotic novel of ancient China. Li Han-Hsiang adapted part of the story into this film, which starts with Hsi Men Ching, a successful merchant, wooing Pan Chin Lien, the beautiful wife of one of the townspeople. While there is some promise with this part of the story, the film goes steadily downhill from here.
Li provides almost no redeeming qualities to Hsi- Hsi is a inveterate womanizer, stealing and killing in order to get any woman he wants. His extremely sexist attitude may have been the norm in ancient China, the source material does a much better job in making Hsi a symbol of degradation. In this film, Li does introduce some commentary criticizing Hsi's behavior, but it seems a cynical afterthought. Li is also very sloppy with the "romances" that come after Hsi seduces Pan; in almost every case, he rushes through the "romance" to get to soft-focus sex scenes.
Li's obsession with bound feet is very hard to understand- clearly, bound feet were considered attractive for hundreds of years in China, but it was hard for this reviewer (and, I think, most modern audiences) to view grossly disfigured feet in a sexual manner. Yet, again and again, the audience is subjected to Li's fetishistic view of bound feet.
Li also uses voice-over to skip through some of the most important parts of Jin Ping Mei, robbing the film of much structure. Li's direction features many zoom-in closeups at supposedly dramatic parts of the story, and positioning shadowing objects in the foreground of his shots in order to obscure the sex scenes. Li was a talented director, but this film is nowhere near the quality of The Love Eterne; in fact, it is hard to believe that both films were made by the same director.