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Love in a Puff
Love in a Puff

Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue smoke their way to romance in Love in a Puff.
Chinese: 志明與春嬌  
Year: 2010  
Director: Pang Ho-Cheung  

Subi Liang

Writer: Pang Ho-Cheung, Heiward Mak Hei-Yan
Cast: Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Shawn Yue, Miao Feilin, Tsui Tin-Yau, Kenny Wong Tak-Bun, Cheung Tat-Ming, Vincent Kok Tak-Chiu, Isabel Chan Yat-Ning, Jo Koo, June Lam, Roy Szeto, Sharon Luk, Charmaine Fong Ho-Man, Gregory Wong Chung-Yiu, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Felix Lok Ying-Kwan, Gregory Wong Chung-Yiu
The Skinny:

Pang Ho-Cheung's fluffy and profanity-laden romantic comedy is tame but also one of his funniest films, thanks to co-writer Heiward Mak's hilarious dialogue. However, the insignificant story likely qualifies it as one of Pang's lesser efforts.

by Kevin Ma:

Ironically, Pang Ho-Cheung's first category-III film Love in a Puff is easily his tamest. A filmmaker who doesn't shy away from graphic depictions of sex (and also extreme violence in the upcoming Dream Home), Pang doesn't really put anything into his latest film that would be considered remotely offensive - that is, unless you're against smoking. As one can expect from a film about a romance stemming from smoking, cancer sticks are featured in almost every scene, which is probably partly why Hong Kong censors got so worked up. The liberal use of Cantonese foul language may have had something to do with it as well.

Co-written by Pang and current "it" filmmaker Heiward Mak (High Noon), Love in a Puff features most of its foul language in the scenes of people smoking around garbage cans in Hong Kong's back alleyways, a new Hong Kong phenomenon (nicknamed "hot potting" in the film) after the government enacted an indoor smoking ban in 2007. Comprising a range of professions, from office executive to hotel bellboys, the smoking group shares crude jokes, horror stories, and even a little gossip. Two of these people are Cherie (Miriam Yeung), a beauty products salesgirl, and ad man Jimmy (Shawn Yue), whose recent embarrassing break-up has just been related to Cherie by his chatty co-workers. Something clicks between the two at their first meeting and despite various obstacles, a romance begins.

Pang Ho-Cheung's original story is fairly thin, chronicling how two people quickly fall in love through a series of insignificant incidents. Without much weight to the story, it's up to the freeform script to keep the proceedings entertaining and interesting. Fortunately, Heiward Mak, whose accurate depiction of smart-ass youth speak was a highlight of High Noon, is now two-for-two as a scriptwriter, delivering hilarious, profanity-laden conversations that will keep a consistent smile on the faces of local Cantonese speakers. Also, the script provides some physical comedy to satisy those who aren't familiar with the language.

At time, the script might remind fans of Pang's AV, which relied on multiple anecdotal flashbacks to create funny, though possibly unrelated gags. Considering the basic setup of people hanging around smoking, Pang and Mak understandably repeat the device here, presenting vignettes such as a horror film-style opening (Pang finished shooting Dream Home prior to this film) and some fourth wall-breaking interviews with the characters about romance and smoking. Unlike AV, in which Pang felt the need to prove his cleverness with extraneous twists, Pang devotes his efforts to the verbal humor as well as his obsession with random, insignificant trivia. If you've ever wondered why people sell cartoon stickers on the streets of Hong Kong at night, Love in a Puff is your movie.

Pang's direction is as loose as the script, relying on handheld shots that simply stand back and let the characters interact with one another. Shot on the RED One, which offers near-film resolution on digital, the film's crisp visuals also help hide the film's low budget, though not necessarily its short shooting schedule. With the French-style lounge music and the naturalistic camerawork, Pang at times seems to be trying to recall the looseness of the French New Wave. The film's reliance on low-brow humor may prevent it from becoming high art, but Love in a Puff easily looks and sounds classier than any Hong Kong romantic comedy in recent years.

Also, unlike many Hong Kong romcoms, Love in a Puff feels real and easily relatable for the average Hong Kong twentysomething. There are mentions of hip social networking sites, and as one can expect in a city where an average person owns more than one cell phone, the characters rely on text messaging to communicate. With a romance that takes place over only several days, the story is almost too insignificant to justify a feature-length film. Nonetheless, the interaction between the characters and the way their stories are handled feel so authentic that they're worth following from the first scene in which they appear.

Much credit should be given the cast. In Love in a Puff, Miriam Yeung finds her most mature romantic lead yet, no longer playing the ditzy, immature heroine that has defined her acting career thus far. Shawn Yue is also good here, playing a younger and more immature romantic lead without having to externalize that immaturity with overacting. However, the two don't entirely click together. The age difference between the two is noted and also addressed, but that doesn't change the fact that the two lack the chemistry to be a convincing onscreen couple.

Despite the small flaws, Love in a Puff remains an entertaining return to comedic form for Pang, who has grown a little self-indulgent with his recent efforts. It's all very lightweight, insignificant, and maybe even forgettable, but Love in a Puff is also the most accessible Pang film in years - given that you're old enough to watch it. It's so stylistically grounded in reality compared to his early comedies that it'll likely remain a minor effort in his filmography. However, Love in a Puff might be his most purely enjoyable film as well. (Kevin Ma, 2010)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam and Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Media Asia

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