Love Is Love (2004)
Directed by: Derek Chiu, Su Youchen & Wu Guo Ping
Gu Jiaming (Nick Cheung - Breaking News, The Conman) works as a computer programmer and has since long been in love with the local TV weather girl Zhang Jing (Wei Lai) who works in the same building. When he does put forth the courage to approach her, he makes himself an enemy, leading to an incident where she splashes coffee over his laptop (also causing an electric moment between the two). What comes out of the fluid damage is an artificial intelligence inside the computer, one who sets out to help Jiaming woo Zhang by providing info he wouldn't otherwise have been able to obtain...
Slipping under almost everyone's radar, this Mainland China production in its native country had the English title My Computer Can Speak while the Hong Kong version carried the title Love Is Love (not to be confused with the Stephen Chow movie of the same name). Of note in this very low-budget production is the addition of Hong Kong's Derek Chiu as one of the three directors. A talent that has for years given us his special, distinct and quirky flavour to movies, in particular through works like Comeuppance and Love Au Zen. Sadly his busy 90s pace has slowed down significantly, even though he was in charge of the larger but ultimately only average commercial comedy Frugal Game in 2002. The acclaimed pan-Asian casted Love Trilogy saw him return to his free for all and clever low-key style but of course it was almost as anonymous as the movie at hand here. Which is a shame but I'm very much confident in Chiu's skills still and it's my pleasure to shine a spotlight on his latest work...
...even though it's not a special creation in any way. Directors Chiu, Su Youchen & Wu Guo Ping puts in time in the fields of good and bad with this romantic drama. Thankfully far removed from wackiness and surreal humour that, in a bad way, seems to populate Hong Kong romantic comedies nowadays, the entire low-key nature to Love Is Love makes the film take a beating for a large portion of the running time. There are annoyances in the relatively little supporting character gallery, some story strands such as Zhang's toying with Jiaming comes off as incoherent and it's hard not to feel bored as Jiaming tries to make Zhang fall for him with the aid of his talking computer. The latter aspect being rather irrelevant even though it's a puzzle piece for the plot. Actors Nick Cheung and Wei Lai create little chemistry amongst the created atmosphere by the filmmakers as well and there's not much said about the lives of these two lonely urban souls.
But proceedings ARE elevated as the second half comes along (enter Derek Chiu?) and Love Is Love becomes something akin to semi-pleasant in its ways. Finally the low-key nature to the direction pays off in the interplay between the characters and in the touches of quirky humour as well. The theme of loneliness and regaining courage never resonate to a classically romantic level but there is something a little sympathetic and ever so slightly heartfelt about these two souls trying to find a footing as reclusive strangers in the big city. Never gripping or touching as such and featuring wall to wall with manipulative music (some of which works), the film kind of does succeed for a while and up till the end, with the acting interplay between Cheung and Wei Lai being stronger than earlier. That doesn't mean Love Is Love has enough chops to rival films like An Autumn's Tale but for the moment and for those trying to look up the hidden titles, it's not a terribly wasted 30 Hong Kong dollars and 90 minutes.
But you can also flip the coin and rightfully argue that Love Is Love is very much unremarkable and you would be right. However followers of Derek Chiu's style, especially his quirkiness in terms of humour or in the visuals department, will appreciate the slight detour in just that during the film and while all would appreciate if Chiu got the chance (or has the ability still?) to do another Love Au Zen or Comeuppance, it's actually just nice enough to see him get any kind of work. With a slight breakout performance by Nick Cheung and a generally pleasing romance within a flawed package, it's a sure recommendation for fans of Chiu. Ones that easily will recognize Love Is Love as a problematic work and that the multi-team of directors seems to be a problem in itself.
Mega Base Technology presents the film in a 1.66:1 framed aspect ratio approximately. While the print is clean, what we get is a very soft and at times murky print that doesn't make the movie come off as newly produced.
Both the Mandarin and Cantonese language tracks in Dolby Digital 2.0 are post-synched but since the setting is Mainland China (and the only Hong Kong actor in the film being Nick Cheung), the Mandarin dub is preferable even though it's never really well-dubbed. The tracks is purely centered, music comes off ok but the dialogue sound harsh.
The English subtitles suffer from some shaky grammar, mistiming and occasionally fly by very fast. Coherent enough though. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. No extras are however.
Thanks to abadga and calros for identifying the crew on the film.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson