LOVE IN THE BUFF director Pang Ho-Cheung is one of the most interesting directors working in the Hong Kong film industry today. His incredible wit and undeniable talent are reflected in his varied filmography, which includes penning the story of Johnnie To's FULLTIME KILLER, producing Tsang Kwok-Cheung and Wan Chi-Man's acclaimed directorial debut LOVER'S DISCOURSE and directing films such as ISABELLA, the most WKW-like film not directed by Wong Kar-Wai himself. Of course, he also wrote and directed LOVE IN A PUFF, the popular 2010 word-of-mouth hit about a smoking couple. So it is pleasing to see that his good form is continuing with the PUFF sequel, LOVE IN THE BUFF.
Like the original film, LOVE IN THE BUFF is a cleverly scripted romantic comedy. It has a distinct Hong Kong flavour, and gives an insightful portrayal of what life is like for people living in Hong Kong now, some 15 years after it reverted back to Chinese rule. A lot of businesses and professionals have moved up north to mainland China, including the main characters of the films, Jimmy and Cherie. For a substantial portion of the film, the dialogue is in Mandarin rather than Cantonese, which Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung handle effortlessly. Yeung in fact gives one of the best performances of her career, and this actress has come a long way since LOVE UNDERCOVER ten years ago. The supporting cast, especially Mini Yang and Zheng Xu, is generally solid.
Being a romantic comedy, the central theme of the film is of course love. The film really cannot go too wrong, because it follows the 3 fundamental laws of love that I have observed in countless other successful films about love:
Law #1: Love does not need a reason - As Cherie says in the film, she does not know why she loves Jimmy. She just does. Now, this is love.
Law #2: Love can change a person - Simply by being in a relationship with Jimmy, Cherie unknowingly becomes more and more like him in the way she thinks and behaves.
Law #3: Learning to love is life's most important lesson - Jimmy, a terribly immature, unreliable and indecisive person, learns a lot about love in the film.
Like many of Pang Ho-Cheung's other films, LOVE IN THE BUFF is greatly entertaining. This is the result of combining a good story about characters that audiences can relate to, some very witty dialogue, as well as good performances from a solid cast and an interesting portrayal of contemporary Hong Kong. With LOVE IN THE BUFF, Pang has cemented his status as one of the best directors working in Hong Kong today, and hopefully from now on, he will keep giving the world one to two interesting films every year.
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