[Films Review] Love in a Puff (2010), Love in the Buff (2012), Love off the Cuff (2017)

Love in a Puff poster

English Title: Love in a Puff
Original Title: Chi Ming yi Chun Kiu 志明与春娇
Year: 2010
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Director: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔
Screenwriters: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔, Heiward Mak 麦曦茵
Music: Janet Yung 翁玮盈, Alan Wong 黄艾伦
Cinematography: Jason Kwan 关智耀
Cast:
Miriam Yeung 杨千嬅
Shawn Yue 余文乐
Roy Szeto 司徒慧焯
Wong Tak-bun 黄德斌
Jo Kuk 谷祖琳
June Lam 林兆霞
Charmaine Fong 方皓玟
Isabella Chan 陈逸宁
Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Cheung Tat-ming 张达明
Singh Hartihan Bitto
Queenie Chu 朱慧敏
Matt Chow 邹凯光
Chui Tien-you 徐天佑
Gregory Wong 王宗尧
Felix Lok 骆应钧
Rating: 7.3/10

Love in the Buff poster.jpg

English Title: Love in the Buff
Original Title: Chun Kiu yi Chi Ming 春娇与志明
Year: 2012
Country: Hong Kong, China
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Director: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔
Screenwriters: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔, Lu Kyee-sum 陆以心
Music: Janet Yung 翁玮盈, Alan Wong 黄艾伦
Cinematography: Jason Kwan 关智耀
Cast:
Miriam Yeung 杨千嬅
Shawn Yue 余文乐
Mini Yang 杨幂
Xu Zheng 徐峥
Isabella Chan 陈逸宁
Roy Szeto 司徒慧焯
Jo Kuk 谷祖琳
June Lam 林兆霞
Charmaine Fong 方皓玟
Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Huang Xiaoming 黄晓明
Jim Chim 詹瑞文
Ekin Cheng 郑伊健
Linda Wong 王馨平
Susan Shaw 邵音音
Kristal Tin 田蕊妮
Derek Tsang 曾国祥
Clifton Kwan 关逸基
Mia Yan 阎汶宣
Wang Taili 王太利
Hao Lei 郝蕾
Wilfred Lau 刘浩龙
Rating: 7.0/10

Love off the Cuff poster.jpg

English Title: Love off the Cuff
Original Title: Chun Jiao jiu Zhi Ming 春娇救志明
Year: 2017
Country: Hong Kong, China
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Genre: Romance
Director: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔
Writers: Peng Ho-cheung 彭浩翔, Lu Kyee-sum 陆以心, Jimmy Wan 尹志文
Music: Janet Yung 翁玮盈, Alan Wong 黄艾伦, Peter Kam 金培达
Cinematography: Patrick Chou 周宜贤
Cast:
Miriam Yeung 杨千嬅
Shawn Yue 余文乐
Jiang Mengjie 蒋梦婕
Paul Chun 秦沛
Susan Shaw 邵音音
Derek Tsang 曾国祥
Isabella Chan 陈逸宁
Roy Szeto 司徒慧焯
Jo Kuk 谷祖琳
June Lam 林兆霞
Hugo Ng 吴岱融
Charmaine Fong 方皓玟
Vincent Kok 谷德昭
Wang Xiaochen 王晓晨
Toby Lee 李程彬
Jan Lamb 林海峰
Dada Chan 陈静
Stephanie Au 欧铠淳
Sammy Leung 森美
Matt Chow 邹凯光
Tarah Chan 陈意岚
Bonnie Wong 黄文慧
Raymond Tin 田启文
Lawrence Chou 周俊伟
Clifton Kwan 关逸基
Shiga Lin 连诗雅
Rating: 6.8/10

Love in a Puff 2010.jpg

One of the last guardians of Hong Kong indigenous film-making, opposite to those talents who are lured to jump on the gravy train in the lucrative mainland China business since the start of the noughties. Ever since his first feature YOU SHOOT, I SHOOT (2001), Peng Ho-cheung has forged a unique style of integrating black humor, saucy subject matters into his scripts which brilliantly capture the zeitgeist of its locality, and his hitherto JIMMY & CHERRIE trilogy strongly bears out his works’ massive appeal, not just in Hong Kong, but for a pan-Chinese demography.

Jimmy and Cherrie (Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung), a young advertising executive and a Sephora sales girl respectively, first meet in LOVE IN A PUFF (2010), during their cigarette break outside their usual office-bound periphery, thanks to Hong Kong’s imposition of banning smoking in all indoor spaces, trash bins become a perfect occasion for nearby smokers gathering together and chewing the rags. Their meet-cute heats up quickly and within one week, Jimmy has completely forgotten his cheating ex-girlfriend and Cherrie also successfully splits with her good-for-nothing boyfriend of 5 years. Peng’s facility of eliciting a gladsome rapport between the pair through jocose snippets pay dividends as sparks fly in their tentative step to establish a relationship (Shawn and Miriam produces a casual, endearing, if chaste chemistry often can strike a chord with its target audience), and SMS plays an important role in facilitating their emotion vacillation. 4 years older than Jimmy, it is obvious that Cherrie has more at stake to start anew in a relationship, her lack of security (whose cause has its own personal root) will become a leitmotif in the series. At first glance, it feels implausible about her predilection for cancer sticks in spite of being stricken with asthma, but Cherrie has a touching story about how she starts smoking and indeed, she just needs one good reason to kick this bad habit.

Interlacing faux-interview footage of two protagonists and their fellow smokers sounding off outlooks on smoking ban and relationships into the alternately boisterous and intimate story-line, PUFF sets up the keystone of a budding romance which a viewer can easily project their own images into the two players, man-child Jimmy and Cherrie, the rainbow-chaser.

Love in the Buff 2012.jpg

Chapter 2, LOVE IN THE BUFF (2012), directly follows Jimmy and Cherrie’s adjustment period after they become an item, soon small crevices materialize, Jerry hops on an opportunity to be transferred to Beijing, puts a moratorium on their relationship, and before soon shacks up with Youyou (Mini Yang), a young Mainland air-hostess. When months later, by sheer chance, Cherrie also relocates to Beijing due to job rearrangement, the pair meets again, initially rebuffs Jimmy’s initiation, Cherrie relents and they rekindle their affairs by arranging trysts behind Youyou’s back, meanwhile Cherrie is also courted by a courteous divorcé Sam (Xu Zheng), an easy fallback position any girl fantasizes as a Plan B.

At this step, Peng doesn’t flinch from revealing the downside of a love relationship, Jimmy’s immaturity and Cherrie’s incorrigible self-deception and willfulness, writ large together with Peng’s subtle reference that a Hong Konger’s unaccustomed conditional in China’s capital. Cherrie receives a wake-up call during one of their trysts, and finally issues an ultimatum that Jimmy must choose between she and Youyou and the answer is…..

By transitioning the major plot in Beijing, BUFF attempts to widen the horizon and visual strategy, but also tellingly underlines that both Jimmy and Cherrie are strangers here (whether it is the ridiculous blind-date scene Cherrie is foisted to attend, where parents touting and exchanging backstories of their eligible offspring like commodities, or Jimmy’s fish out of water presence among Youyou and her friends), they will never belong there.

Banters and digs aside, Peng also pumps up star cameos, from dreamboat Huang Xiaoming as a wide-eyed virgin hit by a coup de foudre with Cherrie’s ordinary-looking friend Brenda (June Lam) in a blind date, to Hong Kong actor/singer Ekin Cheng, with whom Cherrie claims to have a relationship in their younger days, and retired singer Linda Wong (including Jimmy’s hilarious imitation of her in her signature song, which also plays a cardinal role to the story itself), a preordained happy ending is a given in this smoke-free, emotion-straining sequel, but Miriam Yeung is a godsend when she bares Cherrie’s feelings with heart-rending candor, a touching achievement in the acting front.

Love off the Cuff 2017.jpg

In LOVE OFF THE CUFF (2017), Jimmy and Cherrie has been together for 8 years, and this time, the itches kick in not from outside but inside, Cherrie is mithered by her age, 40 is a difficult number for any woman to handle, and Jimmy’s arrested development, at the age of 36, he is not fancy-free but still footloose, cut from the same cloth of Cherrie’s responsibility-shirking father (Paul Chun), presently a new bridegroom of a May-December romance. During their intended passion-regeneration trip to Taiwan, a seismic convulsion prompts Cherrie to think twice about their future, would that actuate Jimmy to finally grow up and become the man Cherrie can rely on? The answer might be clear as day, but the means to that end needs some pageantry to conjure up enough magic to win back a girl’s heart.

On the subplots, one might beef about the abrupt intrusion of Jimmy’s godmother Flora (Jiang Mengjie), who, not only arrives one day early without notice, but also turns out to be a voluptuous young girl (a fact Jimmy strangely withholds from telling Cherrie in advance) and has a design on Jimmy’s spermatozoon for a very jejune reason, a yawningly preposterous concoction even for Peng’s idiosyncratic standard.

Applying lavatory humor, fantastical elements (all three movies open with a creepy prologue of urban legends, and this time, a mini-Gorilla-like monster really ups the ante, plus extraterrestrial forces are also introduced midway with a risible shoddiness), sapphic tease, nostalgia and other condiments into the play, Peng’s mojo still works, mainly for his discernment of laying bare warts and all of a dramatic relationship crisis, although aesthetic fatigue starts to tell after three rounds. If there will ever be a fourth one (Cherrie’s pregnancy is revealed in the end), a retrofitting process becomes a requisite.

referential entries: Peng’s ISABELLA (2006, 7.8/10); Ivy Ho’s CROSSING HENNESSY (2010, 6.6/10)

Oscar 2012 - Love in the Buff.jpg

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