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Some of the fairytale romantic comedy, Love In Space by directors Tony Chan and Wing Shya (a follow up to their previous box office hit, Hot Summer Days) is set in Sydney, as well as Beijing – and of course, space.

In Love In Space, the assorted romances of three sisters – Rose, Lily and Peony – take place in different locations – in a zero-gravity space station, a cosmopolitan Sydney and the glitzy showbiz world of Beijing. 

Mary, played by Xu Fan, is a widow who has recently returned to Beijing from overseas. Nurturing, elegant and graceful, her only wish is for her three daughters to find love. 

Mary’s eldest, Rose, played by René Liu, is a feisty and fiercely independent astronaut. Rose has trained for years for her first mission only to find that she has been teamed with a charming and mischievous playboy, Michael, played by Aaron Kwok . . . her ex-boyfriend.

"an ironic romance plagued by comical misunderstandings and misgiving"

The middle daughter, Lily, played by Gwei Lun Mei, studies art in Sydney. After her last failed relationship, she channelled her broken heart into compulsive cleaning. When the germ-phobic Lily meets Johnny, played by Eason Chan, a soft-hearted young man working for the family garbage collection business, an ironic romance plagued by comical misunderstandings and misgivings ensues. 

Eason Chan in a scene set on the edge of Sydney Harbour in the Botanical Gardens

Lily and Johnny’s story is set in Sydney, Australia, a cosmopolitan city with a very different feel and tone from Beijing and Hong Kong. Their relationship initially starts off as a “doomed to fail” scenario – hygiene-obsessed girl meets garbage man. Despite this relationship being a seemingly improbable one, the two give it a try, embarking on a mishap-laden emotional journey. Eventually, they discover that the real obstacle in their relationship is actually their own personal baggage.

The Sydney sequence takes place where the majority of Chinese immigrants live in the city. The set, pace, visuals and Lily’s neurotic behaviour all contribute to the fantastical tone. In the ‘Cupid’s Dash’ scene, where runners dressed up as cupids participate in a large scale race organized by a radio station, the cupids show up in eye-catching costumes of wildly different styles, providing a magical scene with a visual galore of colours. The unspoken metaphorical reference behind all the wacky humour is also something to look for throughout the film.

In Beijing, Peony, the youngest daughter, played by Angelababy, and Wen Feng’s (played by Jing Boran) love, shuttles back and forth between two different worlds. The young lovers are torn by reality, with a wide gap in between. While Wen Feng is a grounded, yet stubborn, no-nonsense sort of guy, Peony, an actress, continually morphs into different roles as she does in her films, while working as a café waitress, as a well-known celebrity and while among friends and family. Her visual styles are as diverse, ranging from a 30s French musical actress to an 80s pop idol and to a cartoonish café waitress. It is difficult to tell which is her true character as she is forever changing, thus, making her one of the most intriguing characters in Love In Space.

"very organized and systematic"

Producer Fruit Chan describes the Australian shoot as very organized and systematic in a very relaxed work environment. “The scenes were mainly outdoor daytime shoots, so in order to get the most out of the natural daylight, preparations started at 4 a.m. And an early start meant an early finish. 

“Moreover, the cast and crew experienced a very different film shoot from the ones they were used to in their respective home countries. Film productions in Australia are very systematic with plenty of paperwork, codes and guidelines to follow. Over half of the crew are locals and everything goes by the book. No crazy hours on set so the shoot is relatively relaxed. The production resources in Australia were ample compared to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Even for a simple scene, the Australian authorities would send traffic controllers over for crowd control.” 

Sydney was easy, compared to space …. Gracefully romantic scenes in zero gravity also meant physically demanding stunts for the actors. 

This was Rene Liu’s first wire work in her filming career, and she was expected to deliver slow movements, which are the most energy-consuming on wires. “Being harnessed and turned around in mid air everyday is really painful. I want to throw up at the end of the day.” The experience almost drove her to tears on set. Using wires to create the weightlessness effect, the physical toll was actually the easy part. “In a weightless atmosphere, movements must be in slow motion, while dialogues and expressions remain normal. I have to send separate commands for body movements, expressions and speech. It’s a first for me and is hard to get it right.” Even the most seasoned action movie stars in China had not done this before.

The preparation time for Rose’s costumes and hair took hours. Her retro hairstyle, that shouts “cute but feisty”, alone took half an hour to set each time. Also, the full set of moon walk gear took an hour just to put on properly. However, Rene Liu proved her reputation as a true professional, with both directors complimenting her after the shoot, for being a fine and unbelievably tough actress.

"possibly the most difficult onscreen kiss in my career"

On the other hand, wire work posed no problem for action star Aaron Kwok. But even he pointed out after floating around on suspensions for five or six hours for one kiss, “The kissing scene in Love In Space is possibly the most difficult onscreen kiss in my career.”

Love In Space: in cinemas in Australia from September 8, 2011.

Published September 8, 2011

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Love in Space

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