Esprit D' Amour
Ringo Lam directed this fanciful ghost story for
Cinema City in 1983. He had been directing TV shows for a few years before
getting this opportunity and he makes the most of it. Though very different
from his better known work – Full Contact, the On Fire series of films
– Lam manages to mix elements of comedy and the supernatural to create
a wonderfully vibrant and charming film. Though most of it is of a romantic
comedy nature, Lam turns the film upside down during the final fifteen
minutes with a taut suspenseful series of scenes.
Alan Tam (a well known HK singer) is driving
to his parent’s home on a slick rainy night when he loses control of his
car and nearly runs over a woman (Joyce Ngai). She comes over to the car
window and they stare at each other for a few lingering moments before
she rushes off to her apartment. Tam continues home where his family is
celebrating an event. He and his father (Bill Tung – Police Story) are
soon being henpecked respectively by Alan’s fiancée (Cecilia Yip-
Peace Hotel) and his mother. Cecilia is very funny in this role as an absolute
harridan and has a few great scenes. Alan though seems to have accepted
his fate as chained to this woman.
Later the family decides to have some fun fooling
around with a Ouija board and they attempt to summon a spirit. The film
then cuts back and forth between the game and the woman that Alan had nearly
run over earlier. She is on a rooftop and rushes to grab a little girl
playing near the edge. Her foot lands on a skateboard and over she goes
to her death far below. Needless to say this is the spirit that is brought
The next day Alan goes to his job as an insurance
claim examiner and he gets Joyce’s case. She had left her insurance to
the little girl who was a neighbor. Tam immediately recognizes her picture
and realizes this was the spirit that they had contacted the night before.
He wants to do the right thing, but the motto of the company is “whatever
they say, we won’t pay!” Joyce is not too happy with this company
policy and puts a spell on the boss, Philip Chan (the police boss in Hard
Boiled), when he is giving a political campaign speech. This leads to a
hilarious speech in which he promises “legalized prostitution – because
it leads to a prosperous society, happy families, good education and world
peace”. For some reason, this message doesn’t go over very well with the
women voters !
As these films often tend to go – Alan begins
to fall in love with Joyce – she is beautiful, gives a great massage and
never henpecks him – a perfect combination! The sentiments are returned
The family learns of this romance and hires an
exorcist to kill Joyce’s spirit. In these final frenetic minutes, Lam displays
hints of his later talent as he creates a tense and exciting finish. He
brilliantly cuts back and forth and utilizes creepy gothic music to create
a terrifically suspenseful scene (in somewhat the same way as the nightclub
scene in Full Contact).
This is one of those wonderful little films that
receive little attention, but it is delightful in many ways. Alan sings
the song during the final credits and it was apparently a big hit.