Posts Tagged ‘BUT A JOKE movie’



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.




USA / TAIWAN 2010  Directed & Written by: Arvin Chen Produced by: Wim Wenders, In-Ah Lee, Wei-Jan Liu, Oi Leng Lui  Cinematography: Michael Fimognari  Editing: Justin Guerrieri Cast: Jack Yao, Amber Kuo, Hsiao-Chuan Chang, Ko Yu-Len

AU REVOIR TAIPEI takes place over the course of a single evening in Taipei: Kai, whose girlfriend has left for Paris dumps him over the phone. Hoping to be able to visit her he had spent most of his nights at a bookstore studying French, which now comes in handy as he plans to fly to Europe and get her back. It happens that a local mafia boss offers him a job in return for a plane ticket – taking a mysterious package with him to Paris –, and so a series of events is set in motion during which Kai and a friend of his are getting in the middle of a double-crossing game between the nephew of the mobster and the mafia boss himself, while at the same time Kai and Susie, who is a staff at the bookstore, are being chased by a local detective who believes they are involved in an international criminal operation. At the end of the night everyone’s life will take a new direction.

AU REVOIR TAIPEI follows a familiar concept, but it has its own charm: unpretentious instead of overly intellectual, Arvin Chen’s debut feature captures the tristesse of Taipei and puts it into stark contrast to the dreams and aspirations of Taiwan’s youth. From Kai who works in his parents’ noodle shop to his friend doing night shifts at the convenience store or Susie who finds her inspirations at the bookstore, everyone’s in pursuit of happiness but isn’t sure where exactly to find it.

As much as I like AU REVOIR TAIPEI and find it unassuming, there also can be no doubt that it is CHUNGKING EXPRESS light. Moreover it is at least a 3rd generation copy as in between 1994 and today there have been numerous attempts to ride the wave Wong-Kar Wai had started back then. Thing is, that some of the better films like LOVE IS NOT A GAME, BUT A JOKE (1997) have simply more personality and a better cast, let alone more inventive script.

AU REVOIR TAIPEI never really explores the human complexity: neither does it show the characters’ multiple facets, nor does any of what happens have a real impact on the protagonists, leading to a change of mind or a process of self-reflection (we witness the beginning of that at best). It’s all just really “nice” and harmless; there are no archetypes that function as a mirror for the audience, only guys and girls with their own problems.

While AU REVOIR TAIPEI is likable entertainment it ranks very low on the relevancy scale: it’s a far cry from the original and Taiwan’s more reputable films alike. Sandwiched between the genuine and the masterful, it is a vintage too young to make a lasting impression.