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La Brassiere
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Chinese: 絕世好Bra
Year: 2001
Director: Patrick Leung Pak-Kin, Chan Hing-Kai
Writer: Chan Hing-Kai, Amy Chin Siu-Wai
Cast: Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Gigi Leung Wing-Kei, Lee San-San, Chikako Aoyama, GC Goo Bi, Rosemary Vanderbrouke, Crystal Tin Yui-Lei, Asuka Higuchi, Maria Chan Chai-Ping, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Stephen Fung Tak-Lun, Patrick Tam Yiu-Man, Jo Koo, Wing Shya (Ha Wing-Hong), Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Dante Lam Chiu-Yin
The Skinny: Despite a meandering storyline and some bizarre existential exposition, this hit comedy from directors Chan Hing-Kai and Patrick Leung has enough funny stuff to recommend it. Stars Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo and Gigi Leung turn in sly comic performances, and the sexual/office politics premise provides more creativity than dozens of 2001 releases. The actual execution may be a bit oblique, but the sentiments contained within are agreeable enough.
by Kozo:

La Brassiere follows neatly in the footsteps of Needing You, arguably the most influential Hong Kong film of the new millennium. While Shaolin Soccer was more commercially successful, Needing You pioneered an amazingly attractive filmmaking formula: pretty stars, urban comedy, low maintenance production, big profits. The production seems to have been upped a notch for La Brassiere, but the other factors most definitely follow the Needing You formula.

Chief among the similar factors is the office setting, which is the Hong Kong office of Sis, a renowned undergarment manufacturer. Tokyo chief Chikako Aoyama dispenses with heavy exposition and cuts right to the chase: Sis' Hong Kong office, which is headed by career businesswoman Samantha (Carina Lau), must hire two male designers to create the "world's best bra." This hiring represents a first for Sis as they're an entirely female staffed organization. What's more, Samantha and chief designer Lena (Gigi Leung) doubt that men can even get the whole bra industry. They reason that guys only have one thing (or maybe two things) on their mind, and that's what's behind the bra, and not the bra itself.

They're not far off the mark. Among the fetishists and screwy stereotype candidates, they find Johnny (Lau Ching-Wan, playing a character whose name approximately translates as "rape you") and Wayne (Louis Koo). These guys are incredibly tanned and dressed, but their first reaction upon being hired is how many female colleagues they can flirt with. Their male status makes them popular among the ladies, which is great because it doesn't seem as if they intend to do any work at all. Lena and Samantha are less forgiving, and eventually require our heroes to learn all about the ins and outs of bra theory, history, production and usage.

These conditions lead to the meat and potatoes of La Brassiere: the comedy. In that, the film is a resounding success, as the sight of Lau Ching-Wan and Louis Koo with makeshift breasts is probably worth the price of admission alone. They practice having breasts and purchasing bras in an attempt to further their undergarment understanding. Given the premise of the film, these scenes are the best, as they play to the comedic talents of both the male leads. Louis Koo lampoons his prettyboy image to great effect, making him a much more likable comedy lead than most HK popstars. Lau Ching-Wan has great comic timing and a magnetic screen presence, and his pairing with Koo is an inspired casting choice.

Matching (and even surpassing) the guys are the ladies. Carina Lau turns in an effective performance, but it's Gigi Leung who manages to be charming, attractive and even inspired. Lena is haughty and proud, but caring and ultimately vulnerable. It's a fine showing for Leung, whose earliest work could have marked her as talentless. Her comedic performance here is a fine complement to her vastly improved dramatic work (Tempting Heart, A War Named Desire).

It's great that the performers are so engaging and entertaining, because the movie pretty much rides them to achieve its ends. The canny performances make the film engaging and entertaining, which is great because the rest is far from perfect. While possessing of a killer premise, the actual story and execution is questionable. When Johnny and Wayne join Sis, the film settles into some choppy sequences which, while funny, don't add up to more than opportunities for jokes (Patrick Tam's cameo is a primary example). And sometimes you have to wonder when the female employees at Sis ever work, as it seems all they do is pay attention to Johnny and Wayne.

Even worse, director/writer Chan Hing-Kai's patented existentialism takes over. The film detours into long metaphorical discussions on how a certain situations require certain bras, when in fact the characters are talking about people and their relationships. It would be great if actions could speak for words, but simple discussion would get the job done, too. However, when characters choose to speak to each other through indirect metaphor (and pretty much every character does this), it can get tiresome. It seems the writers are too busy getting off on their own cleverness to realize the truth: most people don't talk in metaphor. And, underwear metaphors are sure to get you laughed at - or even slapped.

This digging into the world of bras eventually leads Johnny and Wayne to confront their own issues about love, security and what women truly want. Despite the fact that they continue to talk in metaphors up until the very end of the film, the journey they take is actually quite funny and even affecting. The sentiment contained beneath the film's oblique exposition turns out to be rather agreeable - and you actually grow to care for the initially chauvinistic and even unlikeable guys. Despite what this review has said, Chan Hing-Kai has actually been one of Hong Kong's better writers, and his work here (with Amy Chin) is fine. They might want to tone down the overdone existentialism (and all the undue metaphors), but the situations are vividly creative and funny. When you consider the actors' exceptional performances, the end result should be lauded rather than derided. Ultimately, La Brassiere is more than a worthy commercial exercise. (Kozo 2001/2002)

Awards: 8th Annual Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Best Actor (Lau Ching-Wan)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen