More Ringo Lam before he was Ringo Lam. Jean-Claude Van
Damme's best friend directed this early-eighties ghost-romantic-comedy-drama
from the Cinema City fun factory. Alan Tam is Ming, a mousy
insurance salesman who's whipped by ferocious fiancee Ivy
(Cecilia Yip). However, despite his impending nuptials/funeral,
he finds the time to fall in love with lovely ghost Siu
Yu (Joyce Ngai).
Ming is assigned to investigate Siu Yu's accidental
death, which boss Philip Chan wants classified as a suicide
(ergo, no insurance payment). However, Siu Yu harangues
Ming into getting the payment for her beneficiary, a five
year-old neighbor. Not surprisingly, Ming falls for the
friendly ghost. But can a ghost and human stay together?
The usual trappings of early-eighties
HK Cinema abound here. There's silly comedy, romantic wackiness,
and generous portions of overacting courtesy of Alan Tam.
However, there's a strangely dark edge to the whole affair,
which is telegraphed by the creepy dance performance that
opens the film, and all but confirmed by the film's tense
final reel. There isn't much rhyme or reason for what happens
here; it's just light and happy one moment and then intense
and sad the next.
Such emotional betrayal was standard for
early-eighties HK fluff, and Esprit D'Amour is most
definitely cut from that cloth. This filck is
easily-digestible fluff until the final reel, when it gets
emotionally overwrought very, very quickly. This isn't necessarily
a bad thing, and in fact much of early HK Cinema's charm
had a lot to do with the wild shifts in tone. Still, it's
possible that the emotional flip-flopping could lose less
Luckily, Alan Tam and Joyce Ngai
are a likable pair, and Ngai displays the charm of a freshly-appointed
ingenue. Also, Cecilia Yip does a bang-up job as the evil
fiancee, making our sympathy for Tam incredibly easy. Thanks
to the good set-up and Lam's solid direction, the film's
downbeat feel proves poignant and a little compelling instead
of manipulative. This isn't a spectacular film, but classifying
it as above-average HK Cinema is more than appropriate.