My Movie Journey to Hong Kong(A Photo Essay)
Half a year ago,I was introduced to an fascinating photo essay about a Wong Karwai fan’s Hong Kong tour by the author himself,who’s also a regular commenter here,Michael G. Smith.In that essay he excellently compared the real film location with the stills from two Wong Karwai films(Chungking Express and Fallen Angel),it was such an exciting read that it made me want to have such experience and write one myself.Six months passed by,my dreams finally come true,another Wong Karwai fan stepped on the tiny island that has been so energetic in the movie-making business during the past three decades,along with me was my wife Doris whose passion in Hong Kong cinema is no less than mine.Since it’s gonna be a long essay, let me divide it into four parts in chronological order.
Our exploration was not even half “geeky” and thorough than Mr. Smith,the only Wong Karwai film location we paid visit is Chungking Mansions,which located at 36–44 Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.Guess what? Our hotel is in this building,which means we spent three nights there and had sufficient time to observe.
So what’s in it? Before that,I’m gonna tell you the secret story of this building first.
According to what Wong said in an interview,Chungking Mansions used to be the residence of many Shaw Brother stars in 1950s,and in 1960s,the biggest Hong Kong night club was built in it and foreigners loved to go there.And after that,foreigners stayed there,lived there,especially Indians.Since then it began to decay and became a mess,even drug dealer often did business there.It became so legendary and mysterious,that Wong used the excuse of shooting a film to gain the access to the building(he was prevented from going in by his father when he was young).
As what I have observed,the film is more like a myth in Wong’ s head and his own vision than the real living conditions of the building.Here is the real thing:On the 1st floor,there are two kinds of businessmen with two kinds of purposes.One is selling daily accessories to the Indian people living in the building,and the other is current exchange business who mainly make deals with Mainland tourists who temporarily lives there.There is a policeman on duty 24/7 so the security level is OK.Two kinds of residents live here:One is Indian businessmen who use the rooms as their warehouse to stock goods,the other kind is Mainland visitors like me and my wife who can only spend at most a week in Hong Kong.Walking in that atmosphere you don’t need any dramatic moments to feel like being in the film,it’s all there.
Judging from the common exterior,can you believe it used to be so popular?
One of the Indian businessman selling bootleg Bollywood dvds
Our tiny little room
After settling down,our first stop is the nearest Victoria Harbor,and of course Avenue of Stars which surrounds it.It’s interesting that since there is no obvious signs for Avenue of Stars,I stepped on one without knowing I was already there,it’s just like a normal passage with stars,movie celebrity names and hand shapes on it.We walked and counted every name on it,with each name appeared in front of me,the images of their movies suddenly flashed in my head,finished the walk is like reviewing the whole Hong Kong cinema history in an hour.For ordinary tourists who didn’t know much about Hong Kong cinema,the walk is merely some famous names,but for a cinephile,it’s loads of beautiful memories and a truly magical short journey.
The star of Li Han Hsiang,one of the most famous and prolific director during Shaw Brothers period
A very iconic and ironic phenomenon,people stepping on the star of Wong Karwai,shooting pictures of Bruce Lee Statue
During the night hang-out,we saw our beloved British cartoon characters on an ad banner board- Wallace&Gromit,why did not London chose them as Olympic mascots?
We have a habit of visiting the history museum in any cities we go to.So we spent a whole morning in the Hong Kong History Museum,it was nothing like what we have seen in Mainland museums,because the funding is powerful,they did a fantastic job of rebuilding all the stores you would normally see on streets and presenting them in every possible detail.The attitude of respecting its history and the artistry in all these models are just incredible.
The model of the old Hong Kong theater
Old Hong Kong movie posters hanging on the walls in the theater model
In the afternoon,we went to Broadway Cinema Center and Kubrick Bookstore.We went to their chainstore several times in Beijing and this is the big time! The Kubrick Bookstore is quite like the one in Beijing,mainly sold English movie books and magazines,any movie scholars and geeks would find some descent books here.We only bought a issue of Sight & Sound magazine but never expected it to be so hot these days with its all time movie top 10 polls!
A shelf of English movie books
The Sight & Sound Magazine I bought in the bookstore
Then came the highlight of the day,the store in Broadway Movie Center is full of gems! There are huge original arthouse movie posters for sale,also small ones and postcards,what really shocked me are those piles of dvds and Blu-rays.CC,MOC,Second Run,Kino,all the classic and latest dvds and Blu-rays released by these mainstream dvd companies are available here,you can find any major directors’ works among them.The truly amazing thing is they are ordered first by directors and then by countries then continents,how professionally organised that was! If I had the chance of watching one film a day from this epic collection,I wouldn’t mind working here for my lifetime.
A row of Shaw Brothers dvds for rental
Gorgeous large movie posters on the wall
Small posters and postcards we bought
See how spectacular this is?
We thought the Hong Kong Film Archive would be a great place to gain more insight of Hong Kong cinema,because we heard it is mainly responsible for the restoration of old Hong Kong films and presents them,so we went there with certain hope.However,we were unlucky that the exhibition lobby was closed and only the library opened.So we went upstairs and read some books about movies,if you live in Hong Kong and have enough spare tiem,it’s more economy to read books here than buying them in Kubrick Bookstore.
Hong Kong Film Archive
At night we joined the Law Taiyau live concert,this guy is the godfather of Chinese music and is called “Chinese Bob Dylan” for many reasons.He is my wife’s favorite Chinese male singer(her favorite Chinese female singer is Faye Wong) and probably mine too.The reason I mentioned this concert here is the famous church song called “A Better Tomorrow” in the John Woo film which bears the same name of the song was written by him.
The Law Taiyau live concert
We went to Thailand after 4 days’ staying in Hong Kong,the rest is not much to say,I’m gonna ending this essay with more photos,I’m so glad to share all those with you and thanks for reading!!
The James Bond Island,the place where they shot The Man with the Golden Gun
The Maya Beach where they shot Danny Boyle film The Beach
The Chinese version of the famous stage play The Caine Mutiny(we watched it in Beijing after we come back from Thailand)
Joker in HK
Joker in Thailand