Original Hong Kong film poster
|Cantonese||jam1 joeng4 co3|
|Directed by||Ringo Lam|
|Story by||Raymond Wong|
Ni Shu Chun
|Music by||Tang Siu Lam|
|Edited by||Tony Chow|
|Distributed by||Golden Princess Amusement Co. Ltd.|
Esprit d'amour is a 1983 Hong Kong supernatural romance film directed by Ringo Lam and starring Alan Tam, Shu-Chun Ni and Cecilia Yip. Shot in modern-day Hong Kong, the film centres on protagonist Koo Chi-Ming, a hapless insurance investigator who while investigating the case of a beautiful girl who supposedly committed suicide begins being haunted by her spirit and eventually falls in love with her.
Based on an original story by Raymond Wong, Esprit d'amour is credited as the very first film directed by Hong Kong director Ringo Lam better known for his later 1987 film City on Fire starring Chow Yun-fat. Released in Hong Kong on 15 December 1983, the film took in a total of HK$14.1 million at the box office and gained one nomination at the 1985 Hong Kong Film Awards.
In 1998 Esprit d'amour was released on VHS in the United States and on DVD in 2005, a digitally remastered Hong Kong version was also released a few years later in mid-2008.
Koo Chi-Ming (Alan Tam) is a life-insurance investigator who while driving to his engagement party, loses control of his car almost running over a young girl, Siu-Yu (Ni Shu-Chun). Later upon arriving at his party he and his father (Bill Tung) begin being henpecked by his mother (Tang Pik-wan) and his fiancée Ivy (Cecilia Yip). Later after the party has ended, everyone decides to have some fun with a Ouija board by attempting to talk to a spirit. Chi-Ming's little brother explains that after they are finished they must send the spirit back, otherwise the person last holding the saucer will be haunted by the spirit. Elsewhere, Siu-Yu is on the roof of her apartment with her goddaughter Mimi drying clothes when Siu-Yu notices that Mimi is very close to the edge rushing forward to grab her, Siu-Yu's foot accidentally lands on a skateboard which sends her over the edge of the roof to her death. Back at the house, as soon as Siu-Yu dies, the saucer begins to show signs of movement and points out the name of the recently deceased Siu-Yu. The saucer then begins to circle violently around the board and everyone is thrown backwards, apart from Chi-Ming, who holds on until the last movement at which point the saucer flips over to reveal a small spot of blood indicating he will be haunted.
The next day at work, Chi-Ming is handed two cases to investigate by his boss (Philip Chan). The spirit of Siu-Yu makes sure that he gets her case by switching the files. While looking through the case file, Chi-Ming notices that the name of the deceased is the same as the one spelt out on the Ouija board. After visiting the deceased girl's apartment, he realises that the girl who died was the girl he almost ran over the night before. Upon returning home the ghost of Siu-Yu appears to Chi-Ming and tells him that her death was an accident, and to pay the insurance money to her goddaughter Mimi.
At work Chi-Ming is about to write up his report but his boss intervenes telling him to say that the girl committed suicide. Later, Chi-Ming tells her that he can't help as it is his boss's decision. After hearing this Siu-Yu begins playing pranks on Chi-Ming's boss causing him to fire Chi-Ming. Chi-Ming takes losing his job hard, ending with him being thrown in jail only later to be bailed out and re-hired by his former boss who has had a change of heart after Siu-Yu being haunted again.
Now a free man and with a promotion, Chi-Ming begins a romantic relationship with Siu-Yu much to the dismay of his girlfriend who along with his mother hires an exorcist Dr. Han. At Chi-Ming's apartment Dr. Han explains that while he is performing the exorcism the front door which he calls "the door of life" can't be opened as this will cause the "door of death" to open. He also instructs Ivy to keep Chi-Ming away from his apartment during the exorcism.
Ivy takes Chi-Ming out to a nightclub to distract him, but while watching a dance performance he spots Siu-Yu on stage and in great distress. At the same time, in Chi-Ming's apartment, Dr. Han summons Siu-Yu which causes her to disappear in front of Chi-Ming. Chi-Ming rushes home to find Dr. Han in the middle of the exorcism. Rushing to help Siu-Yu, he triggers the opening of the "door of death". Dr. Han runs away, while everything in the room is sucked out the window, along with Chi-Ming and Siu-Yu. Grabbing the balcony railing Chi-Ming hangs on but Siu-Yu is sucked into the sky. Trying to follow her he jumps, but falls down 18 floors onto a parked car. After recovering in the hospital, Chi-Ming returns to where he first saw Siu-Yu, in hope of finding her. He walks out onto the road, nearly being hit by a car. Looking through the window for a split second, he thought the female driver was Siu-Yu, but then notices it wasn't and lets her drive away. With an emotional look, he removes his glasses and looks up into the sky with a smile.
- Alan Tam as Koo Chi-Ming (古志明) – an insurance investigator who falls in love with a female ghost
- Joyce Ni Shu Chun (倪淑君) as Chang Siu-Yu (張小瑜) – a girl who died in an accidental fall, became a ghost and begins to haunt Chi-Ming
- Cecilia Yip as Ivy – Chi-Ming's controlling girlfriend
- Tang Pik-wan as Chi-Ming's Mother
- Bill Tung as Chi-Ming's Father
- Cheng Mang-Ha as Mimi's Grandmother
- Tien Feng as Dr. Han – a Taoist priest who tries to exorcise the ghost Siu-Yu
- Lung Tin-Sang as Dr Han's assistant
- Billy Lau as Chi-Ming's colleague
- Philip Chan as John Tang – Chi-Ming's boss
The film is based on an original story by Raymond Wong. Wong's inspiration for the film came on a trip to worship his ancestors, while his family was making preparations. Wong was wandering around nearby and came upon a grave. There was a picture of a girl on the tombstone. She was quite pretty so he stopped to look at the picture when suddenly he felt a chill go down his spine. He was afraid because as he stared at her, he thought, "she might haunt me this night". Wong then walked away and rejoined his family. That night, he tossed and turned in bed thinking about what had happened and came up with the story. Wong and his childhood friends used to play séance, so he decided to include this in the storyline, too. It was decided that the movie should have a French-language title rather than an English international title, meaning "Spirit of love".
At the Golden Horse Awards in a cocktail reception the director spotted a young girl called Joyce Ngai and instantly wanted her to play Siu Yu, however she had never acted before. In an interview, co-producer Raymond Wong said that he respected the director's choice and casting her was the right decision.
Filming began in late 1982 under the direction of Po-Chih Leong, director of the generally well-received Hong Kong 1941. According to Ringo Lam around one-third of the film had been shot when Leong resigned after arguing with producer Karl Maka. In need of a quick and inexpensive replacement Maka gave the previously unknown Ringo Lam his big break. Later in an interview Lam explained, "I have no choice, I need food, so I do the best I can ..." Lam received sole directing credit for the film".
The movie's main song (Chinese: 幻影; Jyutping: waan6 jing2) known in English as Illusion, or sometimes as Phantom or Mirage, is used throughout the movie in a music box and is also used in the ending credits. It was composed by Chinese composer and music producer Lam Manyee, written by Lam Man-Chung and sung in Cantonese by lead actor Alan Tam. The song went on to be nominated as "Best Original Film Song" at the Hong Kong Film Awards but lost to the romance-drama movie A Certain Romance (1984). A version in Mandarin, known as huànyǐng, also sung by Alan Tam, was also later released.
The film received mainly positive to average reviews with one critic at LoveHKFilm.com stating "This isn't a spectacular film, but classifying it as above-average HK Cinema is more than appropriate." Hong Kong Digital described it as "run-of-the-mill" but with "modicum charm," while another review at So Good... calls it a "true Hong Kong product" with a "stylish tension-filled ending". On the Chinese movie review website, Douban, it received an average rating of 7.2 out of 10 based on 275 user reviews, and also made the list for the 10 Best Chinese Ghost Movies on Screen Junkies by coming in at number 2.
The film was nominated at the 4th Hong Kong Film Awards, in the "Best Original Film Song" category. The song that attracted the nomination was "Illusion", which had music by Lam Manyee, lyrics by Lam Man-Chung, and was sung by Cantopop singer Alan Tam. The award ultimately went to "A Chance Encounter" (偶遇), the theme song of 1984 movie A Certain Romance (少女日記), sung by Samantha Lam.
Producer Raymond Wong remarked in an interview that it was "a box office hit". The movie ran in theatres from 15 December 1983 to 4 January 1984 and grossed a total of HK$14,102,667 million.
In 1990 the film featured as part of Channel 4's "Chinese Ghost Story" season introduced by Jonathan Ross, being played alongside similar movies in the genre such as Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain, Mr. Vampire, Spiritual Love and Rouge. The film was also shown 29 May 2010 at University of Toronto as part of Asian Heritage Month.
The film has been released on VHS, Laserdisc, VCD, and DVD. It has been digitally remastered for Region 2 DVD (2007) by Universal Pictures Japan and for VCD and Region-All DVD (2008) by Joy Sales (Hong Kong).
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