It is with mixed feelings that I have to inform you failthful readers that this will be the last post for a couple of weeks. I am shutting down the Things Fall Apart offices so I can go off and enjoy a well earned break. The iPad is loaded with a few new films though, so I should return with much to talk about. I might decide to post whilst I am away in a more abbreviated format, if I can find a decent iPhone app that legs me blog offline.
But as I say, mixed feelings, as this post is one I have been looking forward to writing, as it concerns a film that I think is my film of 2010 so far (and yes that does mean I might be doing a Top 5/10 at the end of the year).
“Love in a Puff” sets itself firmly in modern day Hong Kong. Modern anti-smoking legislation has driven the smoking workers to designated areas and alleyways, creating small areas where people enjoy a smoke, while exchanging stories and chit chat. Shopgirl Cherie (Miriam Yeung) stumbles upon a group of such people, including recently dumped advertising executive Jimmy (Shawn Yue). The pair hit it off imeediatley, and the film follows the next 7 days of their lives, as they begin a romantic relationship.
Much has been made of this film’s language, which got it the dreaded Cat III rating in Hong Kong, which affected the attendances initially before word of mouth (and the internet) bought people into the cinema. Now sadly, I do not speak Cantonese, and the subtitles that I have are quite possibly not as strong as the words being spoken. Hoever, the wordplay still feels modern and natural to me. The jokes seem genuinly funny, and unlike a lot of Hong Kong comedies, the subject matter seems universal, rather than relying on HK-specific pop-culture.
To be fair, not a lot happens in the film. The two characters meet, walk around a bit, smoke a lot, go to a birthday party, girl leaves her boyfriend, they fall out, etc etc. However, as all Edmond Pang films that I have seen, the gitty, voyeuristic style leaves me gripped and engrossed. Remember, this is the man who got an amazing performance out of Gillian Cheung! Think of it as a cross between Wong Kar Wai and Woody Allen, and if that appeals, I promise you that you will enjoy this. The use of a pseudo-documentary to look inside the various perticipants minds is not a distraction (if not entirely original), it just adds layers to various characters, especially those whore are not directly important to the story.
Shawn Yue gets a lot of love on this blog, and rightfully so. Here he plays a man who is obviously in love with his job – his friends and ex-girlfriend all seem to be based at his company. He seems to be hurting from his girlfriends infidelity, and is naturally worried about the sudden intensity of his new relationship with Cherie. This is maybe not his most powerful role, but it is actually rather nicely underplayed, and most importantly realistic. Miriam Yeung is however fantastic. She is funny, flirty, a good friend, obviously stuck in a dead relationship. Her character seems so well fleshed out, and whilst she is not unttractive, she is not an unobtainable beauty, yet she just glows on the screen – a person you would love to hang around with. For me, this is HER movie.
You do have to let a few things go. Everything moves REALLY quickly – within four days of meeting Jimmy, Cherie is leaving her boyfriend of 5 years, and getting Jimmy to pick her up. I’ll take this both as a cinematic short-cut, and maybe a meta-commentary on the speed of modern life. It certainly is an interesting variation on the years that love affairs can take to be requieted in say a Korean film.
It is also a film that may be cursed by some of it’s contemporary elements – txt messaging and Facebook are major devices used to move the plot forward – I do wonder how kindly these elements will be thought of in 10 years time.
The smoking subject matter may well concern a few people. For these people, smoking is a huge part of their social lives, and other than reflecting on the effect it has on Cherie’s Asthma, the film never once delves into the health aspects. I found this rather refreshing to be honest – smoking is part of these peoples lives, we maybe do not need a public health announcement in EVERY film. This is a film about modern life in Hong Kong for a certain type of 20-something – it is NOT a lecture in the perils of the cancer stick.
In short – this is a funny, charming and utterly beguiling movie. The Highest of Recommendations.