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Tiramisu
"Sorry, I lost my driver's license."

Nicholas Tse and Karena Lam take a dip in Tiramisu.
Year: 2002  
Director: Dante Lam Chiu-Yin  
Cast: Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung, Karena Lam Ka-Yan, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Eliza Chan Kit-Ling
The Skinny: Ambitious fantasy-romance from director Dante Lam reaches too high to create a HK-style Titanic, but ultimately finds itself without anything to stand on. However, Nicholas Tse, Karena Lam and Candy Lo all give fine performances.
Review
by Kozo:
     As a film, Tiramisu defies classification. Is it a drama? A romance? A Fame-inspired inspirational dance extravaganza? Or a modern update of the classic Chinese Ghost Story formula? Writer-director Dante Lam doesn't seem to be sure. Either that, or he's so sold on his over-the-top mixture of emotional plot devices that he simply believes it'll all work out in the end. Regardless of his intent or confidence in his material, the result is all over the place. Tiramisu is sometimes tasty, but messy and probably bad for you.
     Speed racer Nicholas Tse stars as Fung, a deaf postal worker who has the lucky fortune of experiencing Chungking Express-like serendipity with lovely dancer Jane (Karena Lam). In the span of one day, the two manage to cross paths a total of four times, including two heart-throbbing meetings on the MTR. On their last meeting, she drops a book (how original!) and he decides to return it to her by waiting at their chance meeting places.
     Except Jane never shows. Fung can only wonder why until he's educated in the vagaries of fate. It seems Jane got hit by a bus meaning she's no longer in the here and now. Luckily, she was thinking of Fung at the same time he was thinking of her, so now he has the ability to see and hear her undead form. Ghost rules stipulate that she can only come out at night, so in the day she resides in Fung's body, endowing him with the ability to hear and even dance like the talented Jane. The two can also stake out Jane's previous life, which was on the up-and-up until the bus posterized her. She and her dance company were due for a major dance competition, and Jane's dance with partner Tina (Candy Lo) was supposed to be highlight of the whole thing. With only seven days until the competition, can the dance troup pull it together? And how can Fung help?
     That set-up seems fairly clear, with the dance competition providing the narrative "ticking clock". However, things get dicey thanks to the presence of the "Ghost Cops," demonic horse-riding apparitions who are supposed to drag Jane into the underworld. She hides out with Fung to escape them, but they seem to be everywhere our heroes go. Their interference could spell doom for the dance troupe, and more importantly the burgeoning romance between the Fung and Jane.
     The main problem with Tiramisu isn't its straight dramatic tone, which is sometimes so pronounced that it could induce laughter, but it's fast-and-loose metaphysics that make absolutely no sense. The rules of the afterlife in Tiramisu seem to revolve around whatever will make things better and/or worse for Fung and Jane. The myraid of obstacles that prevent the two potential lovers from finding happiness is meant to provide conflict and tension, but those obstacles don't follow a logical course. They arise out of the narrative need for Fung and Jane to have problems - or overcome them. How is Fung allowed to chase Jane into the underworld? Why is she in a big French-looking castle, waiting to be saved? And can you actually take a picture of a ghost? The introduction of these various plot devices are meant to affect, but Tiramisu doesn't tug heartstrings. It yanks your chain.
     The film would have done better to spend more of its time with the winning chemistry between Karena Lam and Nicholas Tse. Despite spouting a variety of canned platitudes, Lam turns in an affecting, disciplined performance that's refreshing compared to the Joey Yungs and Cecilia Cheungs that Nicholas Tse normally works with. Tse demonstrates why he's at the top of every "future star" list in Hong Kong. He's a charismatic actor who has a seemingly unlimited range. It's hard to believe that HK Cinema's bad boy could play such sympathetic characters, but he does so convincingly. It's especially fun to watch Fung discover his newfound ability to hear, as it plays to Tse's physical acting strengths.
     Director-writer Lam did well to cast the two young stars, but he overloads the film with metaphysical weirdness and questionable side details. The actual dessert Tiramisu pops up here and there, but its connection to the film is paper-thin. Fung's deafness is an interesting detail, but it serves no ostensible thematic purpose. Ditto the use of Eason Chan, who turns in a shrill performance as Fung's horoscope-obssessed roommate. Candy Lo turns in an affecting supporting performance, but the scenes between her and Chan seem to exist only to tease the audience with another potential popstar pairing.
     Furthermore, the narrative choices Lam makes in the second half of the film are extremely questionable. In these ghost-human romances, it's best to keep the tragedy between the two star-crossed lovers and not extend it to the majority of the cast. Having everyone get all teary is probably meant to increase audience sympathy exponentially, but it can also induce some numb head-shaking. Tiramisu is a worthwhile diversion for fans of the principal cast, but as a coherent cinematic experience it falls quite short of its lofty goals. (Kozo 2002)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Universe Laser
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Universe

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