HONG KONG 2010 Directed by: Pang Ho-Cheung Story: Pang Ho-Cheung Written by: Pang Ho-Cheung, Heiward Mak Produced by: Subi Liang, Pang Ho-Cheung Cinematography: Jason Kwan Editing: Wenders Li Music: Ngai Lun Wong, Janet Yung Cast: Miriam Yeung, Shawn Yue, Tat-Ming Cheung, Matt Chow, Tien You Chui, Charmaine Fong, Vincent Kok, Jo Kuk, Ying Kwan Lok, Sharon Luk, Fei-Iin Miao, Roy Szeto, Tak-Bun Wong
Thinking about all the ups and even more downs of the Hong Kong film industry one easily forgets one of its unique assets: the nameless sub-genre of movies philosophizing about life and love in the city (which in this form of course has been started by Wong Kar-Wai). It’s a genre born out of historic events, mostly the 1997 handover: shortly before this life-defining incident the first films of this kind surfaced, and ever since the mid-nineties works discussing the cloudy future of Hong Kong’s current Generation XYZ have become a standard in the local film repertoire. Not that most of these movies were ever more than niche or independent films (they lacked the large portions of slapstick of other romantic or comedic movies to make it to blockbuster fame), but looking back they have always been around sporadically.
LOVE IN A PUFF by writer-director Pang Ho-Cheung shares the same tradition, even though it appears to be more conceptual: the story deals with the changing smoking laws in Hong Kong and centers around a group of working professionals for whom smoking is an essential part of their lifestyle. In fact, smoking is crucial for socializing and displaces eating or working from the top spot.
Shot partly in quasi-documentary style LOVE IN A PUFF observes a group of colleagues working in the same building or district, meeting regularly at the designated smoking areas to exchange news, jokes and gossip. Most of the time is spent on updating each other on the relationships of friends, and of course a cigarette is also a welcome starting point of new relationships, like between Jimmy (Yue) and Cherie (Yeung). As both are having troubles with their partners they start spending more and more time together, finding the comfort of strangers.
It is wonderful to watch their relationship grow (and other relationships deteriorate, or at least stagnate), interspersed with pseudo-realistic interviews and news on Hong Kong’s changing smoking laws. LOVE IN A PUFF is a cynical comment on the city’s smoking situation and it makes the best out of it using it as a thematic backdrop for its story. Smoking with a vengeance, it’s payback time: the ordinary man and woman aren’t gonna give up easily.
Despite LOVE IN A PUFF bordering on satire it still shows all the strengths of Hong Kong’s life-and-love-in-the-city flicks: the loose flow, the random events, the unpretentious attitude, the natural acting, the girl-and-boy-next-door love story, the humorous and emotional conversations about trivial matters and the very individual perspectives on the shared reality.
Life isn’t all that serious in LOVE IN A PUFF – it rather just goes by (usually not too fast) or zigzags from one mundane event to the next. Always authentic and entertaining, the movie shows Pang’s talent for discovering the extraordinary within the ordinary, just like in many of his earlier movies before. Life doesn’t need special effects, it needs someone to pay attention and appreciate its diversity and nuances. Pang delivers another fine film with LOVE IN A PUFF, a worthy successor of gems like LOVE IS NOT A GAME, BUT A JOKE or FEEL 100% / FEEL 100%…ONCE MORE.
If you have been an avid fan of Hong Kong cinema back then you will appreciate LOVE IN A PUFF as one of the warmest and most charming movies in a while. It’s a lively account of Hong Kong anno 2010, and proof that everything remains different.
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