Hong Kong Feature
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Cinema Hong Kong
Hong Kong cinema still projects an image of classic martial arts and prolific triad flicks, with a few auteurs capturing the nuanced poetry of life in the former British colony. Inside the territory, however, silly romantic comedies with Canto-pop stars, gory/sexy ghost films, cheesy slapstick throwaways, and a handful of thoughtful independent films also populate the screens. It goes without saying that you can learn a lot about Hong Kong by watching its local flicks in-situ.
The Hong Kong film industry churned out more than 200 local features a year in the early 1990s; but by 1997 that number had plummeted to 85, and in 2007 Hong Kong released a mere 50 films. This decline in an empire can be credited, not only to changing audience tastes, but to increasing pressure from the "motherland" to target the mainland Chinese market. The result is often big-budget, epic-proportion, crowd-pleasing, censor-friendly co-productions, such as 2009's blockbuster Bodyguards and Assassins. But many local filmmakers have complained about the homegrown industry losing its distinct Hong Kong character.
Among the most popular Hong Kong films expressing post-1997 angst are Fruit Chan's Made in Hong Kong, Durian Durian, and Little Cheung, as well as Johnnie To's Election and Election 2. For a typical Hong Kong movie about Hong Kong, see Samson Chiu's Golden Chicken; for a less typical one, see Toe Yuen's animated My Life as McDull.
Meanwhile, don't forget to pay tribute to the legend Bruce Lee, whose bronze statue is frozen in stance on the eastern end of Kowloon's Avenue of Stars.
A Night at the Movies
An engaging cinema is an integral part of the Hong Kong movie-going experience. Except for children's and other niche-market films dubbed in Cantonese, all non-English-language films have both Chinese and English subtitles. For show times and theaters, check the Web sites of the movie chains or theaters directly, where you can usually see the seating chart updated in real time, before either booking online by credit card or buying your tickets at the counter later. Prime-time tickets range from HK$60 to HK$80, while most cinemas offer a discount of around 20% on Tuesday and morning matinees. Concession stands usually sell two kinds of popcorn—salty and sweet. Some theaters can be notoriously frigid. Bring a sweater or borrow a shawl from the cinema if available.
Broadway Cinematheque. The train-station design of this art house has won awards; inside the foyer a departure board displays the showsings of primarily foreign and independent films, with a few Hollywood productions to round out the roster. You can read the latest reel-world magazines from around the globe at Kubrick, the café-bookshop next door, which also sells film books, comics, and other alternative literature. Prosperous Garden, 3 Public Square St., Yau Ma Tei, Hong Kong. 2388-3188 ticketing hotline. www.cinema.com.hk. Yau Ma Tei.
Palace IFC. Large, cushy brown leather seats and ushers in black suits make this boutique cinema seem more like a private screening room than a multiplex. Five screens show new releases, foreign and independent films, and occasionally even restored celluloid classics. It's pricier than most picture houses, but also much classier. 1st fl., IFC Mall, 8 Finance St., Central, Hong Kong. 2388-6268. www.cinema.com.hk. Hong Kong or Central.
JP Cinema. When it's good old popcorn action fare you're after, JP treats its patrons right, without the shopping-mall multiplex madness. Past the snack bar you'll enter one of two theaters equipped with panoramic screens, surround sound, and a combined total of 658 red-cushioned seats. It even projects 3-D movies digitally at 4K super-high resolution. Hollywood and Asian action thrillers, epic adventures, and blockbuster comedies rule the lineup. As you come up out of Causeway Bay MTR exit E, walk left and watch for the giant posters. 22-36 Paterson St., Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. 2881-5005; 3413-6688 booking. www.mclcinema.com. Causeway Bay.
Hong Kong Film Archive. Don't underestimate the popularity of old black-and-white films in a modern auditorium; it's best to buy your movie ticket in advance to avoid sold-out disappointment. The theater screen rare classics from the history of Hong Kong cinema and beyond, from the impressive archive of film reels and documents dating back several decades. Conscientiously curated film programs are accompanied by an exhibition in a separate gallery downstairs. 50 Lei King Rd., Sai Wan Ho, Eastern, Hong Kong. 2739-2139. www.filmarchive.gov.hk. Closed Tue. Sai Wan Ho.
Hong Kong International Film Festival. The annual Hong Kong International Film Festival brings together some of the finest film industry talent from all over the globe. The festival usually occurs in mid-May, offering two weeks worth of movie screenings, exhibitions, and seminars, some hosted by world-renowned actors and filmmakers. Hong Kong. 2970-3300. www.hkiff.org.hk.
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