Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hong Kong movie fan haunts

Last weekend, two friends -- and fellow Hong Kong movie fans (cum bloggers!) -- came over to visit from Kuala Lumpur. At various points, as is our wont, we got to talking about Hong Kong movies, Hong Kong movie books and Hong Kong itself. During one of these sessions, I belatedly discovered that I somehow had hitherto not introduced them to Stefan Hammond and Mike Wilkins' Sex and Zen & A Bullet in the Head: The Essential Guide to Hong Kong's Mind-Bending Films (New York: Fireside, 1996) -- a zesty read which added its share of fuel to my fledgling Hong Kong movie born-again tendencies all those years ago -- and made haste to remedy the situation.

Some hours after my buddies had taken their leave, I got to independently browsing through some of my other Hong Kong movie books. While turning the pages of Stefan Hammond's follow-up work, the lesser but still quite informative Hollywood East: Hong Kong Movies and the People Who Make Them (New York: Contemporary Books, 2000), I found myself re-reading the section entitled the HK film freak's perfect Hong Kong day in the tome's in situ chapter...and getting inspired to write my own version. So, after having mulled over the available options some more, here it is:-

For starters, since one is assuming that the Hong Kong film nut is on vacation in Hong Kong (rather than working there), I'll suggest that -- unless it's a weekend, in which case several cinemas have morning shows that one can go to (and save with, since they're priced cheaper than shows scheduled for later in the day) -- it's okay to sleep in and get a fairly late start to the day.

Before leaving your hotel for the day though, one would do well to buy a copy of the South China Morning Post and browse through its movie listings section (as show times are liable to change from day to day in Hong Kong). Also, I'd suggest fueling yourself with such as a couple of rich -- plus very tasty -- egg tarts and the powerful Hong Kong version of nai cha (trans., "milk tea") to help prepare for what will invariably be a long as well as full day!

If film schedules are ideal, I'd then suggest that the day start off with a movie at a Mongkok location like the Broadway Mongkok -- a cinema which can feel like it's filled with the kind of characters (particularly goo wat jai (loose translated as "Triad boyz"!) who populate Hong Kong movies! -- or within the more state-of-the-art UA cinema at Langham Place.

One reason for putting forth this suggestion is that Mongkok is one of those Hong Kong districts whose locations have appeared in many Hong Kong movies. (E.g., think One Nite in Mongkok!) So, being there can feel like being in a Hong Kong movie to a Hong Kong movie nut like moi... ;)

For another, as Tim Youngs' invaluable A visitor's guide to movie shopping in Hong Kong readily reveals, Mongkok is where many of Hong Kong's best video shops are located. In particular, whenever I go to Hong Kong, I never fail to pay a visit to the Original Video store located at 36 Mongkok Road which has very competitive prices indeed as well as a very comprehensive stock of Hong Kong movie videos.

At the same time though, I also do like to check out the Original Video store at 71 Sai Yee Street (whose stock can vary from the other and bigger Mongkok location) and the Widesight branch on Sai Yeung Choi Street -- which has quite a nice selection of Hong Kong DVD releases of Japanese films as well as is only minutes away from the Broadway Mongkok. Additionally, as my movie interests have broadened to include Korean and Mainland Chinese films, I've also taken to patronising the stores in the basement mall at 6 Nelson Street that stock those territories' movies.

However, in recent years, I've taken off the Sino Centre and Allied Plaza from my visiting list as the former looks to have more "Category IV" and other non-legitimate movies and materials than anything else these days while the latter no longer houses Kenny's Hong Kong movie collectibles shop (from where I got such as my Ashes of Time photobook and set of Peking Opera Blues lobby cards!). Still, and lest you worry that there are no more movie-themed stores to plunder, be rest assured that there still are more places for the film fan to splash the cash!

So, if there's room left in your bag(s), head south from Mongkok to the neighboring district Yau Ma Tei. There you'll find within the Prosperous Garden Housing Estate -- and close to the Yau Ma Tei police station which has made appearances in Hong Kong movies, including Metade Fumaca and the first Election -- the Broadway Cinematheque, home to an art house cineplex but also a bookstore cum library named Kubrick and a DVD shop with an incredible -- to say the least -- international selection.

If you have time to catch a movie at the Broadway Cinematheque, go ahead and do so! If not, go lighten your load by depositing your shopping booty in your hotel room, take the opportunity to splash some cold water on your face and generally freshen up before setting out again -- this time out to Sai Wan Ho on the north-east side of Hong Kong Island. For the outbound leg of the trip there, I recommend the MTR (for the uninitiated: Hong Kong's underground train service and system).

Unless it's a Thursday (the one day of the week when it's closed) or there are evening screenings scheduled, the aim is to arrive at the invaluable facility that is the Hong Kong Film Archive before 7 p.m. For then, you can avail yourself of this Sai Wan Ho attraction's splendid Resource Centre (think movie books and magazines galore but also audio-visual materials!) as well as take in whatever is on show at its well-curated Exhibition Hall and/or Cinema plus go and purchase those of its publications which strike your fancy from its Box Office.

Post satiating your Hong Kong movie appetite, it might suddenly dawn on you that you may not have made time for lunch today! Fortunately, you'll find that there are plenty of eateries near the Hong Kong Film Archive and the Sai Wan Ho MTR station. And after eating your fill at the food place of your choice (be it the McDonalds opposite the entrance to the MTR station or somewhere serving culinary fare that's more exotic), I'll recommend that you take it easy for the rest of what's left of the day (and maybe even night). ;)

In line with that last suggestion, I'd recommend a leisurely ride back across the north side of Hong Kong Island by tram. (There's a tram stop on the main street close to the Sai Wan Ho MTR station.)
Especially scenic in the evening, this tram ride also will be sure to evoke more movie memories for the Hong Kong film nut since tram rides feature in a multitude of Hong Kong movies (e.g., Tempting Heart, Nomad, The Longest Summer and Last Ghost Standing). As such, I reckon that it makes for a rather nice way to officially bring a Hong Kong movie freak's perfect Hong Kong day to a close... :b


Anonymous said...

Aaaaahhh, this brings back many memories...

HK, I miss you!

Anonymous said...

That sounds like quite an itinerary.

By the way, when seeing Hong Kong movies in a Hong Kong cinema, are there ever (English) subtitles?

YTSL said...

Hi eliza bennet --

"HK, I miss you!"

You and me both! ;b

Hi alejna --

It's some itinerary but a doable one! Also, here's confirming that Hong Kong movies shown in a Hong Kong cinema do get shown with English -- and Chinese -- subtitles for the most part. :)

Anonymous said...

What a fun day! Makes me want to head for the airport....

What's the highest number of DVDS/VCDs purchased in one day? one trip?

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

As you know, I normally like to space out my purchases over a few days (and visits some of the shops mentioned more than once over the course of a single visit to Hong Kong). So the highest number of DVDs and VCDs I've purchased in one day is "only" around 20 while the equivalent number for one trip has been as high as around 55... ;S

Anonymous said...

yeah, this entry is on the blog search for 'Hong Kong' that I subscribe to!!!

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Please tell me more about the blog search on "Hong Kong" tell you subscribe to. In fact, tell me more about blog search subscriptions in general since I'm sadly ignorant about such a thing!

Anonymous said...

Goggle has a blog search you can either check on your own or on the left hand side of the blog search page is a place to subscribe to blogs of your choice. I decided to subscribe to 'Hong Kong' for a month to see what kinds of blogs people were writing about HK. So far it's been everything from travelogues to financial news to general news. The H5N1 blog reports on the locations of dead birds found to be infected. I receive several emails a day with blog info.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

Okay, knew about the Google blog search but didn't previously pay attention to its "subscribe" option. Thanks for the info! :)

Helen M. said...

Could you please do me (...I know, a total stranger) a favor and check those dvds you got from Widesight/Original Video? Are those DVDs labeled "region-free" or "all-region"? Or is it region 3? I would greatly, greatly, GREATLY appreciate the info.

YTSL said...

Hi Helen --

Some DVDs are region-free/ all-region while others are region 3. In general, DVDs of contemporary Hong Kong movies tend to be all-region. However Celestial's re-releases of the old Shaw Brothers movies and Panorama's re-releases of the old Cathay movies are region 3, as are some -- though not all -- Hong Kong releases of South Korean films.

However, to be on the safe side, and especially if it's not too expensive, I really would recommend that you invest in getting a multi-region DVD player. Alternatively, you could go for VCDs since they're pretty much all-region (though you do encounter the fact there that a rare few seem to be PAL vs NTSC).

Helen M. said...

hey, thanks for the reply. It'll make me worry less about buying useless DVDs!

YTSL said...

Hi again Helen --

You're welcome. Another piece of advice: When you buy these DVDs, check the covers as they do generally have correct information re region coding, subtitles, etc. on them.