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Hong Kong Film Festival: Stars and paparazzi on opening night

March 21, 2012 |  5:52 pm

Love in the buff 2

A huge pack of paparazzi were jockeying for position Wednesday evening at the 36th annual Hong Kong International Film Festival, eager to catch the arrival of Miriam Yeung and Shawn Yue, stars of the opening night film, “Love in the Buff.”  But somehow, it was all very civil.

The red carpet at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, where the film market and much of the festival takes place, is more of a circle than a straightaway. On Wednesday, it was surrounded by glammed-up fans, including giggling girls ready to swoon at every move Yue made and sigh at Yeung’s creamy-dreamy-ruffling gown.

In "Love in the Buff," from director Pang Ho-Cheung, Yeung and Yue reprise their roles as Cherie and Jimmy from the 2010 movie “Love in a Puff.” In that film, Cherie and Jimmy meet on their smoke breaks in Hong Kong, with the chemistry fairly crackling. In "Buff," the two have broken up with each other, and Hong Kong, and are in the throes of separate, but equally fraught, moves to Beijing.

The packed house -- there was one theater for the gala crowd and two sold-out screens for the public -- was thrilled to see the couple they fell in love with two years ago back on screen.

Pang’s romantic comedy is appealingly cheeky in the ways it talks about love, commitment and changing times, weaving it all together into frothy fair that is as likable as the sparring Jimmy and Cherie at its center.

The writer-director has introduced complications into their lives. Beijing has a different mood than Hong Kong, somehow everything feels more open, the capital's notoriously smoggy air clear after the denseness of Hong Kong as seen in "Love in a Puff." Since both cities have their air quality issues, it's hard not to think Pang is playing around with the idea of the shiny prospects Beijing holds for so many of Hong Kong's coming generation, letting the sun shine on that mainland promise while wrapping Hong Kong in a fog of darker shadows.

Love in the buffBoth Jimmy and Cherie have found new significant others. Xu Zheng plays a sturdy businessman who's dating Cherie; Mini Yang is a lovely young model Jimmy has fallen for. The life choices they are facing are polar opposites: Will she choose safety? Will he choose excitement? But both have to decide whether they'll stay in Beijing, or is Hong Kong’s pull too strong?

Giving the seriousness of their decisions, there is still a lightness to the way Yeung and Yue play Cherie and Jimmy that gives the film a dancing-on-air sensibility. The comedy, which kept waves of laughter filling the hall, has a kind of gentle quality that makes it more endearing than mean.

But Pang is still engaging with important themes. He’s seized upon the idea of using romance as a way to weigh in on the continuing cultural changes in China, particularly the evolution of a Yuppie class with enough money and time on its hands to indulge in good old-fashioned heartbreak. But it is the playful way that Pang deals with the ripple effect of this new age with its rapidly shifting social mores -- on relationships, and ways of thinking about life -- that makes "Love in the Buff" nothing and everything to laugh about.

Pretty much a perfect opening for a festival that is all about change, transition and bouyant hope.

The trailer is below. "Love in the Buff" will be released in U.S. theaters on March 30.


Video: Betsy Sharkey talks about 'Love in the Buff'

Hong Kong Festival changing with the times

-- Betsy Sharkey in Hong Kong

Photos: Top: Director Pang Ho-Cheung, actress Miriam Yeung and actor Shawn Yue pose at the movie premiere of "Love in the Buff" in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Credit: Associated Press. Middle: Cherie (Yeung) and Jimmy (Yue) share a watermelon in a scene "Love in the Buff." Credit: China Lion