La Brassiere

Reviewed by YTSL

Starting with the smash summer 2000 hit that was “Needing You...”, the doyen of the  Milkyway Image production company, Johnnie To, together with his frequent collaborator, Wai Ka Fai, have shocked and surprised many Hong Kong film fans by coming up with a string of comedic offerings (that include the not entirely successful “Help!!!”, the exuberant “Wu Yen” and the actually sweet “Love on a Diet”) that were as light as many of his previous works had been dark.  Now it seems like the director of the very first Milkyway Image effort (i.e., “Beyond Hypothermia”) has followed suit, and audiences ought to feel glad that Patrick Leung has done so plus hope that he -- and quite a few others who had also worked on the moody and brooding “Born Wild” -- will henceforth stick to crafting clever comedies like this late 2001 offering.

This is because LA BRASSIERE -- a pastel plus candy color schemed laugh riot that centers on the Japanese head of the international (but) all female Sis Group having ordered its Hong Kong branch to bring aboard two men to design The Ultimate Bra (in no small part because of her  holding the belief that women wear that which these days have decorative as well as functional purposes (largely) for men’s sake) -- is every bit as immensely inspired, entertaining and well-written as Patrick Leung and co.’s earlier 2001 work was not.  To its makers’ great (additional) credit, this film with a potentially sexually divisive premise -- not least since it attempts to answer the frequently frustrating question posed by Sigmund Freud, among others, re “what do women want?” -- has turned out to be one that shows ample signs of having been expertly fashioned together with the input of intelligent -- yet hardly overly cerebral -- females as well as males.
Alternatively put:  LA BRASSIERE -- an immensely fun film that nevertheless does contain some more or less serious messages, including those that stress the value of cross-gender collaboration as well as general team work -- really does seem to have benefited from those who put it together having included a female co-scriptwriter (Amy Chin) as well as executive, administrative and associate producers (in Amy Chin (again), Tiffany Chen and Janet Chan) along with male co-directors, scriptwriters and -executive producers (Chan Hing Kar was Patrick Leung’s co-helmer as well as shared Amy Chin’s crew duties).  At the same time, although Carina Lau (who plays Samantha, the Sis Group’s Hong Kong branch boss) and Gigi Leung (as Lena, a young woman whose (relatively) flat chest has not impeded her from having a high degree of respect for -- and solid knowledge of -- the female specific undergarments that she designs and help market) do help ensure that this production has plenty of on screen star power, Lau Ching Wan (as Johnny, a men’s brief specialist) and Louis Koo (as Wayne, a product designer) are the individuals who are given the greatest opportunities to shine -- as well as sportingly make fools of themselves to successfully garner lots of laughs -- in an offering that has a distinct “only in Hong Kong movies” feel to it, and is all the better for this being so.
The following are some hopefully (relatively) spoiler free examples of what I consider to be Hong Kong movie specific moments, occurences and developments in LA BRASSIERE:  That which ensue after Johnny and Wayne -- whose combined names make up that of the famous macho icon whose birth name was Marion Michael Morrison -- get ordered by Samantha to try their hands at bra shopping.  Their paying a brief -- pun intended! -- visit to consult a reputed bra expert known as Ali Bra Bra (N.B. The bra seller played by Patrick Tam is somewhat strangely identified in the English subtitles as a Bra Keeper).  The two men being challenged to wear bras and fake breasts -- to get a better idea re how women physically feel -- for half a day by Lena (and Wayne not only accepting the challenge on his and male colleague’s behalf but upping the ante by announcing that they would also put on women’s underpants).  Wayne seeking to enlist the aid of his former girlfriends to get a handle on the female form and, in the process, coming to the realization that he additionally needed to learn more about the feminine psyche, himself, and what he -- plus other men -- can offer women.
Lest it be thought that men have all the learning to do and women the teaching in LA BRASSIERE, suffice to say that Samantha and Lena do duly get baldly confronted with statements by the males who mean something to them about what they want from women in general and the object of their affection in particular.  While this female does not feel able to vouch for the validity of the assertions by the group of guys in question (who include a fellow played by a cameo appearance making Stephen Fung.  Incidentally, some other cameos plus supporting performances to watch out for are those by Karen Mok, Jo Kuk, Rosemary Vanderbrouke, GC Goo Bi, Lee San San and Chikako Aoyama), she will attest to many of the ones made by the women in this enjoyable offering -- including those which may (initially) seem incredibly outrageous, if not downright brazen -- often having a surprisingly true ring to them.  When coupled with the movie’s ability to engender a substantial amount of smiles, titters, giggles and guffaws, it should be small wonder why I couldn’t resist viewing this at times admittedly quite silly -- but never ever stupid -- work twice in two days (and three times in less than three weeks!) plus effectively strong-arming a couple of my (female) friends into checking out.

My rating for this film:  9.

Reviewed by Brian

La Brassiere is La Brilliant. La Brassiere is La Bon Appetite. La Brassiere is La Bonjour and La Bonsoir. La Brassiere is sexy, funny and utterly charming. La Brassiere is sharp, tangy and as delicious as a mint julep. Not that I’ve ever had a mint julep. In fact I have no idea what even goes into a mint julep, but I am trying to come up with zippy lines that might make it into a blurb in a newspaper movie ad someday. “La Brassiere is a rondelay of wit, laughs and young, scantily clad women” quotes The View from the Brooklyn Bridge. Not that this film will likely ever make it to your local multiplex, but it certainly deserves to - because it is in fact all of the above.

I suppose it is rather sad that at this point in my life I finally realize my calling – to work in a brassiere design office. Not necessarily to design them – just to work in an office where everyone is female, young, beautiful and male deprived – and where models walk around dressed in only the flimsiest of undergarments. An office environment where the boss (Carina) unbuttons her blouse in a business like manner to show the fellows how important a bra is to a woman, an office environment where the head of design (Gigi) inspires the man to build the perfect bra by taking his hand and inserting it inside her blouse to cover her breast – this is the feeling she says “that a woman wants from a bra”. I would gladly be the official cup holder.
So which of these sweeties do you want to take home?
So it’s a bit of a fantasy world that Lau Ching-wan and Louis Koo find themselves in and they love every minute of it. So did I. This is one of the most amusing films I have come across in a while – sometimes witty, sometimes just plain silly – but consistently funny and it never allows itself to bog down in office romances or plot. The romances are there – but are treated with a light sorbet touch that never diverts attention from the main purpose of this film - to have fun. The four leads seem to be having the time of their lives – and all come off very well in a Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell stylish sort of way. There are a few scenes – in particular the one in which Lau and Louis try on the bras with assorted fruits inside – that have the cast on the verge of hysterics. The other classic scene is when in a Yoda/Skywalker like moment of revelation, the two men mind meld with the bra and can see everything. It is priceless.
Having Lau Ching-wan back on the big screen after an extended absence is terrific and he shows why he was missed so much in one of his most natural and charming performances ever. And to see Carina in something that is worthy of her talents as opposed to the ilk of Cop Shop Babes is a pleasure. The two youngsters – Louis Koo and Gigi Leung – acquit themselves in fine fashion as well and show an ability to laugh at themselves. I still wonder though what Ekin thought of that Gigi hand insertion scene! To look at this film with a steely eye, one would have to admit that it is very frivolous – like grown up frat boys on one last joy ride – but it is a frivolity that all can join in with.

My rating for this film: 8.5