Words could not express my excitement when I found out that Love In The Buff, the sequel of director/writer Pang Ho-cheung’s 2010 realistic romantic comedy Love In A Puff, would be released simultaneously in North America. As a huge fan of the first film and its realistically cynical portrayal of relationships, I hoped to see the same thing in the sequel, and I was not disappointed.
In the first film, ad man Jimmy (Shawn Yue) encountered older cosmetician Cherie (Miriam Yeung) while smoking in a back alley and by the end of the film, they fell in love after knowing each other for merely a week. The sequel picks up a few months into their relationship, where they are living together but problems begin to arise because of their differences in priorities. When Jimmy takes an opportunity to work in Beijing, the two ends things without an official break-up. Soon enough, Cherie is then transferred to Beijing as well and it isn’t long before they run into each other. However, Jimmy already has a younger and prettier girlfriend by his side. The sequel follows the relationship of Jimmy and Cherie as they can not stay away from each other despite having new partners.
In comparison to the first film, Love In The Buff is much more structured, having more sharp-tongued exchanges and a faster pace. The sequel is also a lot funnier — I was having trouble breathing after the film. When I thought I had calmed down from whatever hilarious or crude line a character has said, another funny thing happens. Seriously, there is not a dull moment in Love In The Buff, it is filled with laughter from start to finish, and I mean until the very end (friendly tip: stay for the credits).
Since this is a China/Hong Kong co-production, a lot of hype for the movie surrounds around the question of whether or not Pang could maintain the Hong Kong-ness that characterizes Love In A Puff, while moving the location to Beijing and having dialogue in Mandarin as opposed to 100% Cantonese. There is generally the assumption that a co-production film cannot maintain that style because some directors could easily find themselves compromising in order to appeal to the Mainland audience. As a disappointment to critics against co-production films, Pang handled the film brilliantly. Even though most of the film takes place in Beijing and most of the dialogue was in Mandarin instead of Cantonese, Pang successfully brings the salacious anecdotes from Hong Kong to China with additional amusement by playing with the languages.
Finally, it is undeniable that an understanding of the Cantonese language and culture is essential in maximizing the experience of the film and to enjoy the genius of the dialogue as well as the cameos of the Chinese movie stars (the film takes it to a meta level with famous singers/actors portraying themselves). Nevertheless, Pang provides the North American audience with a series of contemporary Hong Kong films that more accurately portray Hong Kong instead of the famed Wong Kar-wai films.
– Reviewed by Jessie Lau, current Reel Asian Office Volunteer and University of Toronto student