Heading into the world of Category III exploitation with the speed of a freight train and appearing in over 20 movies between 1991-1994 (including a detour into the classic Stephen Chow comedy From Beijing With Love as the assassin with the flame thrower bra), the late Pauline Chan finally slowed down and her only 1995 contribution sealed with the III of approval was A Sudden Love. A short, quickly paced piece of mystery actually, some established content is confusing, never mentioned again and the final nail put down in terms of message and theme is clearly up to the viewer to guess (and that is not fully a good thing) but it earns a high recommendation based on its visual presentation only. That's shallow but there's no doubt it ranks as the most compelling lead Chan has looked on film.
Traveling to the Philippines for vacation, Pauline (Chan) bumps into Dick Lau's character who's visiting his cousin Angie (Cindy Yip). Angie has her goals set to win the heart of Lau but after several chance- and brief encounters with Pauline, it turns out he has chemistry with her instead...
The setup for a soap opera triangle for sure and being a Category III rated film, director Shui Wing-Tin doesn't waste any time and shows our other supporting lady Cindy Yip in a lesbian love scene. Think of this as a narrative that isn't linear and this scene will make sense despite little being explained towards the end. Clear is though that director Shui and one of two cinematographers (other being Peter Ngor, director of the pretty Erotic Ghost Story II) wants steam and actual erotica to come through so coupled with a latino flavoured soundtrack, nice lighting and camerawork, A Sudden Love is being blessed with some sexy effort. But letting us into the core of the story early is something we're not blessed with and a dopey scenario with Hong Kong tourists on a very small plane heading to the Philippines is never mentioned again after take-off. Comedic padding in the worst of ways.
For a moment A Sudden Love takes on the look of the cheap, quick softcore porn romance it is but Shui and Ngor soon find inspiration in the sunny surroundings, in particular when shooting Pauline Chan who in the movie is photographing her surroundings as well. Sure it's a tourist film almost but there's something very alluring in the way Chan absorbs the camera and at this point it doesn't have anything to do with nudity. Rather it's a tease of what Pauline as a character is. A free spirit, with self knowledge and intelligence.
Because after the quite wonderfully playful Cindy Yip and Dick Lau have taken part in some good looking teasing and a steamy sex scene in a cave (it really is a perfect setting Shui and Ngor treat very well visually and when it comes to conveying sex on screen), the lack of chemistry between the characters becomes very evident while Dick and Pauline shows having oodles of it. While he's the typical male partly that thinks with his dick, his various sit downs with Pauline talking of how confined you get by city life and how free you must allow yourself to feel in this sunny setting is pleasant stuff. It's really nice seeing two characters getting on and getting attracted through somewhat deep communication as well.
All the leads are made to look lovely, are genuinely nice people (even if Cindy Yip turns very childish once the short lived triangle drama happens) and after bonding is done as well as re-examination (plus a long, long Pauline Chan/Dick Lau sex scene. The first piece of nudity from Chan this film... late), A Sudden Love doesn't end very clearly. We are made to assume how characters moved on with their lives and while there's a number of assumptions that can be made, there's also an annoying amount that can't (subtitles go missing during one dialogue at this very point so perhaps it hid a key). It doesn't cause the warm recommendation for this hot movie to go away. On the contrary, I can't think of many movies that showcased Pauline Chan visually as well as A Sudden Love does. Shame it was all a bit too sudden and that we later lost her at an early age.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson