Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Visionario, Via Asquini 33
Saturday, April 22, time 5.00 PM


By date


By title


Love In A Puff

Hong Kong’s indoor smoking ban sent people of all professions outside to smoke around garbage bins. These ‘hotpot’ sessions, as the locals call them, have created cliques that gossip, trade foul-mouthed barbs and even share horror stories over cigarettes. One day, ad man Jimmy (Shawn Yue) and cosmetic shop salesperson Cherie (Miriam Yeung) meet at a ‘hotpot’ session. Jimmy just had an embarrassing breakup – a story humorous­ly conveyed by Jimmy’s colleagues over a gossip session – while Cherie is trapped in a dead-end relationship with her long-time live-in boyfriend (Kenny Wong). Jimmy and Cherie click almost instantly, and an unlikely romance blossoms between them over the course of a week.
Despite being Pang Ho-Cheung’s first Category III film (no one under 18 admitted), Love in a Puff actually remains one of the director’s tamest films. Curse words and raun­chy humor fill the script, but lying in its core is a sweet little story about contemporary love in Hong Kong. Pang and co-writer Heiward Mak (High Noon) channel a bit of Woody Allen and a bit of French New Wave with a loose narrative mostly made up of humorous moments from Jimmy and Cherie’s numerous encounters.
Shot in digital by then up-and-coming cinematographer Jason Kwan, Love in a Puff had an organic, vérité-esque documentary style, with seemingly improvised post-game interviews featuring the characters inserted into the story (though Pang is known for his insistence on sticking to the written word on set). It was Pang’s most laid-back film, eschewing his usual clever plot twists for a straightforward urban romcom that’s heavier on anecdotes than exposition.
Little did anyone know that the film would be a career changer for Hong Kong cinema’s enfant terrible. Despite a disappointing box office take (partly due to that Category III rating) the film earned Pang his first Hong Kong Film Award (for Best Screenplay) and a legion of new fans. Its Beijing-set sequel Love in the Buff – his first sequel ever – became his highest grossing film at the time and officially elevated him to become the ‘it’ direc­tor of his generation. The series’ third film, which sees the protagonists grappling with the seven-year itch, is also showing at this year’s Far East Film Festival.
Love in a Puff remains to this day one of the most accurate portrayals of what it’s like to live as a young middle-class professional in post-handover Hong Kong. It’s set in convenience stores, hot pot restaurants, karaoke boxes, local cafes and alleyways. The characters flirt via text messages, commit shady online dating practices and, as Hong Kong smokers will remember vividly, drive all over the city in a rush to horde cigarettes before another price hike goes into effect. Fans of the series love these films not just for the humor, but also because they all know someone like Cherie, Jimmy or even one of their foul-mouthed friends in their lives.
Back in 2010, I wrote in a review that Love in a Puff’s lighthearted and fluffy story made it one of Pang’s lesser efforts. Seven years later, I not only find that the film still holds up, but actually now consider it to be Pang’s most down-to-earth and genuinely charming film.
Kevin Ma
Film director: 
Pang Ho-cheung
Running time: 




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