To inform entertain and excite my kids, Jamie, Patrick, Aaron & Sarah Middleburgh, our family and friends.

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Hong Kong

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Da Movies

I have always liked movies : I was in the film club both at school and university: I used to be a member of the National Film Theatre (BFI) on London's South Bank. Here in HK I still enjoy a good film (and some bad ones!!)

I read somewhere that Aberdeen had the first cinema in Hong Kong, but unfortuantely it is “no more” . I am not surprised. I saw one film there before it closed and the cinema had this “other time” quality, out of step with today’s “style”- very 60’s & retro. Although it was in shopping complex it reminded me of a cinema in Aberystwyth when I was a student.

That one was a converted Victorian musical hall which showed “art films” and on Fridays midnight movies. The balcony was unsafe and closed ; it still had original gas lights upstairs. The seats in the stalls were the originals, stuffed with horsehair. Some of the more discerning patrons used to bring plastic macs to cover the seats so they didn’t get bitten by the bugs. Those less discerning could get “tanked up” in the student union bar, which had the side effect of anaesthetising extremities rendering them insensitive to insect depredation.

It was good value nevertheless but I believe it has been closed/knocked down or rebuilt. It is no more listed than the Aberdeen cinema which had no architectural or historic merit . Actually Hong kong has a bad rap for knocking down architectural/historic landmarks.such as the "art deco" Wanchai market redevelopment of which is pending and Central Police Station which is subject to tender.

When I first came to Hong Kong I lived in North Point and then up the road in Quarry Bay. On a Saturday morning /afternoon I would sometimes take the ferry across the harbour and go to the cinema in the “Whampoa” boat (or more likely in the cinema opposite). Don’t know whether the original design concept for boat was because there originally was a dock on site or because the developer Hutchinson Whampoa have shipping interests )

Whampoa used to be about half price compared to a cinema in town if you went to matinee performance. Nowadays I frequent the cinema at Cyperport which is positively ace. Not only is it conveniently near home and considerably more comfortable than most of cinemas in town but when it opened prices were significantly discounted and it remains so. The only down side was that there was nowhere inexpensive to eat although that situation has now been rectified (Did I mention I was cheap ?)

As an aside the Cyberport website is somewhat …“tacky” (I can’t think of a politer way to put it) They had a competition to develop it – I wonder whether they ran out of funds or were simply trying to do it on the cheap ( may explain why I feel at home here) I thought the project site was more interesting personally.

Of course the alternative of going to the cinema is to rent or buy DVD’s or VCD’s (which are even cheaper!!)

There used to be a Blockbuster in HK for rentals but they closed all their branches in HK down this year, rumour has it, because they could not compete with pirated copies and corner shop operations; It used to be that if you went across the border at Lo Wu there were small shops in the centre next to the crossing, selling up to minute pirated VCDs at 11 Yuan each (10HK$ - potentially there was a 2000HK$ fine for smuggling them back)

I also know of one shop which appeared to cut bootlegs to order. It had a flyblown display of legal ? VCD on show but “customers” in the know could walk in; buy illegal under the counter cigarettes; peruse the English or chinese “catalogues” and select their illicit VCD’s .The assistant would then burn a copy from a “master” ; do a quality check (ie show the VCD on the shop Monitor); drop it in a plain bag and complete the deal.

Since Blockbuster has closed (I used to buy their ex rentals) I now buy locally or visit the Virgin record store in Causeway Bay because it has best range of films.

I hear you asking whether videos and films are in Chinese ? Well you have to read the packaging . Cinema’s typically show English language films with Chinese subtitles. In some cinemas the films are dubbed (typically where target audience is young with poor English skills) The only problem with subtitling is that if film was originally in English with some German dialog etc which was subtitled ; these english subtitles get lost which means Chinese friends have to translate those bits for me (with exception of French) .

Non English/Non Chinese films are frequently but not always subtitled in both English and Chinese which means I can watch them; Also Chinese films are frequently subtitled in English and/or Chinese to accommodate different Chinese regions ie HK locals speak Cantonese not Putongua (Mandarin) and the Shanghainese amongst others have a dialect all of their own.

Some things do get lost in translation eg in Chinese comedies where the humour relies on use of the vernacular. Last night I saw (where else but in Cyperport) the new Stephen Chow Film “Kung Fu Hustle” which was an absolute wicked scream. There were odd moments which I thought were only amusing but which convulsed the rest of the audience: The jokes lay in the spoken word.

Stephen Chow is the director of “Shao Lin Soccer” which I understand is now showing in Ireland, and is considered the funniest comedian in asia. (Jackie who ??) Kung Fu Hustle totally eclipses Shao Lin Soccer and for that matter Crouching Tiger and is possibly the funniest film I have EVER seen!!

Although we don’t get enough european films on release here and we have our fair share of US cultural imperialism , one of the magical discoveries of Hong Kong cinema is not chinese films but the Korean films which are shown here. Of these I will write in a future post !!

For my American cousins : I actually like American's but many of the films - yawn!!: An Australian once asked me : Whats the difference between the US and yogurt? it's obvious he said --- after a week Yogurt has culture ! (sorry for any unintended offense especially to Australians)

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