Now You See Love . . . Now You Don't!

This very sweet romantic comedy from Alex Law and Mabel Cheung gently explores the themes of big city life versus small town living and the differing roles of men and women in each venue. Though the film stretches its minimal plot perhaps a bit long – a good fifteen minutes could have been edited out – there are some truly wonderful little scenes that are often amusing and at times very touching.

The cast assembled is terrific and much of it was to reassemble a few months later for the classic action film Hard Boiled. Chow Yun Fat, Anthony Wong and Teresa Mo show up and though Tony Leung is nowhere to be seen his real life girlfriend Carina Lau is on hand. The cast also includes one of HK’s best female comediennes – Do Do Cheng. It is always a pleasure to see Chow in one of his comedy roles, but it was particularly enjoyable watching the usually serious/psycho Anthony Wong do a very laid back funny impression of a rural hick. Everybody is excellent and the chemistry between the characters is very evident.

Chow Yun Fat and Do Do Cheng
Chow is the village head (and very proud that he didn’t buy one of the votes that elected him!) of a small rural village in the New Territories. His family has lived there for many generations – as evidenced by his male ancestor picture gallery in which everyone looks just like Chow! – and he is a very traditional male. Women are for cooking, cleaning and babies. This is a place where the men drink by the yard and in a later scene a city boy tells Chow “Shakespeare said wine increases our desires in direct proportion to decreasing our potency”. Chow scoffs at this with a “Shakespeare was a foreigner. They have more brains than balls”
Teresa Mo
His girlfriend – Do Do Cheng – has been away in London for three years, but Chow has waited for her all this time. When she returns though she is a changed woman – decked out in punk fashion, holding modern attitudes and swearing in a cockney accent.
Do Do again
Things do not go well between the lovers and Do Do is convinced by her friend Teresa Mo to move to HK and get away from this small town thinking. Chow follows her to HK and tries to convince her to come back and be a traditional wife. She rejects this by exclaiming, “All men are alike. They want a car with a spoiler. They want a spayed cat to catch mice. They want a woman to cook and wash clothes. And to sleep on top of. I tell you, I don’t want any of it, you son of a bitch”. This is all played out in a fancy restaurant in which the staff (Do Do being one) sings Italian arias as they serve food and drinks. Later there is a very funny parody of this back in the small town.

The film’s script is often terrific and has some very clever dialogue and sayings throughout. The book “City on Fire” mentions that much of the dialogue is in a dialect called Hakka and that this may be the only film to ever use it.

Carina Lau and CYF
After being rejected Chow decides to show her that he can be a modern man and moves to HK with his friend Anthony Wong to set up a business in Central. He takes up with a Christian evangelist – Carina Lau – while Do Do starts going out with someone set up by Carina. All four of them (along with Wong) go back to the village to celebrate the New Year and things come to a head in a ludicrously absurd ending.
There are a lot of funny scenes that you think about later. One I particularly liked for some reason is when Chow and Do Do’s lives are literally hanging in the balance and they start sadly reminiscing about their past and Do Do says she is sorry for never improving her three faults. Chow asks what they are and she promptly gives the first two and then says she forgets the third. With perhaps only minutes to live, Chow happily peppers her with numerous faults for her to choose from.
There is never much doubt where this film is going (it was a Chinese New Year offering which tend to have happy endings), but it takes its time and is very amusing in getting there.

My rating for this film: 7.5