Happy New Year! And lord, we’ve missed a lot…the Slate Movie Club (A little self-congratulatory this year? Or perhaps it just seems that way without Armond White’s furious windmill-tilting?), the New York Times’ best ofs, the Village Voice‘s Take 7, indieWIRE‘s top tens…so while we’re off catching up and sorting through days and days of email build-up, some scattered film-related vacation notes and photos:
Anyone with a Wong Kar Wai fetish knows that Chungking Mansions is the place to go in Hong Kong for cheap tailoring, decent takeout and drug smuggling. There’s a general air of "you’ll wake up in a bathtub of ice with your kidneys missing" to the place, which silly…no self-respecting Hong Kong resident would waste precious floor space on a needless bathtub. But the Mansions’ 17 or so floors are also packed with what are inarguably the least expensive accommodations in a rather pricey city, if you’re not so picky about fire-safety standards or being mistaken for a prostitute and followed back to your room (boy, that was really a highlight). Anyway, US $30 can net you a luxurious room like this, which sleeps three (sort of).
And then you have to pay a visit to the Mid-Levels Escalator, where, if you summon all of your movie dork powers, you might be able to see the apartment Tony Leung was supposed to live in. If not (and we couldn’t pull it off) you can settle for just gazing at his "Infernal Affairs" counterpart, Andy Lau, who will almost certainly be grinning in his somewhat sinister way from a nearby billboard, as he’s managed to make himself the official spokes-actor of a bewildering array of products.
The newly unveiled Bruce Lee statue on the waterfront in Tsim Tsa Tsui seems to be going over well, luring masses with its irresistible temptation: to strike one’s own kung fu-esque pose in front of it and get a picture taken while yelling "WaaaaAAAAAAAAA!"
In Guangzhou, where we spent the actual holidays, pirated DVD sales are still going strong despite a general national attempt at cracking down on the industry. Plenty of stores still sell them openly, with prices averaging under a dollar each, but the DVD place that we will surely see in our dreams for years to come had to be approached via a small shop in a mall that half-assedly pretended to sell cellphone chains. When you asked, they’d escort you upstairs to a gutted apartment filled with thousands and thousands of DVDs, including, yes, all the new US releases, but far better, every Asian release that never got picked up in the US and plenty of European ones (before there was "Wicker Park," there was "L’Appartement," after all, though good luck finding it).
While we’ve never been found of Hollywood’s desperate attempts at guilting audiences re piracy, particularly when their messages tend to preface movies people have just paid $10 (and sat through 20 minutes of ads) for, we’re not willing to wave the skull-and-crossbones over our head either â€” the making of movies is both an art and a business, for all of the frequent unease of that alliance. But we can’t pretend to be anything but gleeful over scoring a working subtitled copy of "The Wayward Cloud," wherever it came from.
The tragedy of the misused pullquote â€” from the back of a copy of "All About Lily Chou-Chou", Michael Phillips of Citysearch declares the film "Meandering and confusing."