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Compared to the other directors we have profiled under this series, Edmond Pang Ho- Cheung is almost a new kid on the block- but make no mistake, he is by no means less well-regarded than his peers. Since his directing debut in You Shoot, I Shoot (2001), Edmond Pang has garnered raves from critics for each one of his films, a feat that few directors can lay claim to.

And there’s no better sign that he’s on a roll than to examine his slate this year, one that testifies to his versatility as both a writer and a director. Come April 22, his new quirky romantic comedy, Love in a Puff (2010), starring two of Hong Kong’s most bankable stars, Shawn Yue and Miriam Yeung, opens in cinemas here. Set against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s indoor anti-smoking laws (quite like Singapore if you ask me), it is the story of a budding romance between two people who meet during their smoking breaks outside their offices.

Later this year, audiences will also get to see what has been called Hong Kong’s definitive slasher movie, Dream Home (2010), starring Josie Ho, Anthony Wong and Eason Chan. The film has been selected to open the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy and takes a bloody (yes, literally) dig at Hong Kong’s soaring property prices (again with definite parallels to Singapore). Indeed, while most directors are happy to be a master of a certain genre, Edmond Pang has proven so far that he’s quite the master of trades.

“I want the audience to see me as a director who can provide different and fresh products everytime,” he said once in an interview. “So if you are just looking for something I have done before, you may have a totally different viewing experience this time.” That was way back in 2003, when Edmond Pang had just began carving his name in the Hong Kong film industry with You Shoot, I Shoot and his sophomore effort, Men Suddenly in Black (2003).

Before shooting You Shoot, I Shoot at the age of 27, Edmond Pang was a scriptwriter at Hong Kong’s ATV (mainstay TVB’s rival channel) and also a novelist. His first novel, Fulltime Killer, was published back in 1997, and readers may perhaps recall the Andy Lau-Takashi Sorimachi film adaptation directed by Johnnie To and Wai Kar Fai. And then in 2000, Edmond Pang, decided to take the leap into filmmaking.

“It was very difficult securing the cast and budget for You Shoot, I Shoot because no one wants to produce a new director,” he revealed in an interview with Cinemasie. “I tried many companies, every company in the HK film industry. Only Golden Harvest agreed. But then I had another problem, because I was totally new in the film industry.”

“Vincent [then-CEO of Golden Harvest] asked me "Do you know any famous actor in Hong-Kong?" And I didn't know any. If you don't know some stars personally, you can't really bargain the salaries. If you can't bargain the salaries, then it's hard to find a company to produce your movie, it's too expensive.”

In the end, Edmond Pang turned to Cheung Tat-Ming and Eric Kot, two actors who also worked on radio in the ‘90s around the same time Edmond did. The movie was nominated for Best Script at the Hong Kong Film Awards and got Edmond Pang the publicity he needed for his next black comedy, the critical and commercial success Men Suddenly in Black.

Using the genre conventions of a cops-and-robbers film, Men Suddenly in Black was the story of four men who go on hanky panky “missions” while their other halves are not around. Both You Shoot, I Shoot- about a film director working with a out-of-work killer to film murders- and Men Suddenly in Black were filled with dark humour and irony and Edmond Pang began to gain reputation as a satirist. But even then, Edmond Pang was reluctant to be stereotyped.

“I don’t mean to develop my reputation as a satirist on purpose, and I don’t think it is my trademark also,” he said in an interview back in 2003. “I play with genre conventions because I like this kind of way to express myself… Using dark humour and irony is the way I communicate with others; it is one of my personalities, so this personality appears in my films too.”

And true to his words, he chose to follow up Men Suddenly in Black with the drama Beyond Our Ken (2004) about two girls (one ex and one current) who team up to take revenge against their boyfriend/ex-boyfriend. Not only was it a dramatic change from his previous two works, it also starred two girls (Gillian Chung and Tao Hung) instead of the male-dominant casts in his previous works. Unfortunately, Beyond Our Ken wasn’t as well-received. Neither was AV (2005), his next work, a comedy about four college grads who set out to hire an AV girl for a fake film.

Edmond Pang returned to drama with the critically acclaimed Isabella (2006) starring Chapman To and Isabella Leong which was notable for establishing the ingénue Isabella Leong as a serious dramatic actress; and back to black comedy with Exodus (2007) starring Simon Yam, Nick Cheung, Eric Tsang and Maggie Siu about an apparent secret cartel of women out to eliminate the male species. Generally well-regarded, the film nonetheless failed to hit a chord with general audiences unlike his more broadly pleasing Men Suddenly in Black.

Though his films haven’t always had luck at the box-office, Edmond Pang’s cred as a reputable director has never wavered with the critics, and his strive to try something new each time has similarly won praise. It may be risky, as Edmond Pang himself is well aware, but how many directors in Hong Kong can be as bold to say this: “I want to let people know that I am always trying to introduce different things to them. It is like when you come to my restaurant, you never know what you are going to get. You only come because of the good reputation. There is no menu in this restaurant as the food choice is designed by me… I want to make sure every time you come, you'll have the opportunity to try out something new.”

Love In A Puff opens in cinemas 22 April 2010


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By Gabriel Chong | 15 April 2010
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