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.

Alan Tam and Cecilia Yip
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 back.
Joyce Ngai
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 !
Philip Chan - not a promising political career
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 from Joyce.
a little champagne even seems to work on ghosts!
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).
the exorcist, mom and Bill Tung - and a very unhappy ghost
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.