Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hong Kong movies on China's mainland?

Back to Iron Monkey for a moment: What, I wonder, would Communist Party officialdom think of this Hong Kong movie?

On the one hand, the movie’s heroes are based on real-life revolutionaries against China’s last imperial dynasty, the Qing. On the other, the immediate villains are corrupt officials, quite possibly a sore point in Beijing these days. And the movie’s dénouement sounds a hopeful but decidedly cautious note about the arrival of a new governor to replace his venal predecessor. This, in other words, is no rousing allegory of communism coming to save the oppressed peasants.

I’m a tyro when it comes to Hong Kong cinema. Are Hong Kong movies distributed on the Chinese mainland? Does the wider Chinese population get to see them?

(The Wikipedia entry on Iron Monkey, citing as its source the Los Angeles Times, offers information about technical and other changes to the movie for its American release.)

***
I visited Hong Kong in 1990, three years before this version of Iron Monkey was made. I remember: an intoxicating afternoon at the Luk Yu teahouse, two young lovers walking down a busy sidewalk hand in hand, each chatting away on a mobile phone, and a visit with Gigi from Macau at the Bottoms Up Club in Tsim Sha Tsui. Years later, the even-then much experienced bar girl will surely look back on that evening as one of the least memorable of her long career.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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10 Comments:

Anonymous solo said...

Peter, China has a quota that allows only twenty international films to be shown each year. That would include HK films, but there are a lot of Chinese-HK co-productions that would escape that. Indeed, Hong Kongers are complaining that most of their movies are now being aimed exclusively at the huge mainland market.

I hope your afternoon in the Luk Yu teahouse was a little more gentle and soothing than this one.

May 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I hope those poor birds are all right.

May 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder about the nature of the Hong Kongers' complaints. Are movies aimed at the mainland market different from what Hong Kong moviegoers are used to?

And yes, the decor and atmosphere at the Luk Yu were more conducive to quiet contemplation than those of the tea house in the clip you posted. The place was a lot less crowded on a weekday afternoon, as well.

May 19, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

Sounds like John Woo's Hard Boiled wasn't your cup of tea, Peter.

Chinese censorship is fairly draconian. And it's not just politics and pornography. They won't even allow ghost stories. And like censorship everywhere it's often difficult to decipher why something has been banned.

When the star of Hard Boiled, Chow Yun-Fat, appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean, Chinese censors cut out ten minutes of the film, claiming the character he played vilified and defaced the Chinese.

Maybe they were right, but Hong Kongers are more liberal about such things and don't care to have the authorities telling them what they can and cannot watch.

May 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Au contraire. I liked the scene, and I'll look for the movie on Netflix.

And I figured Hong Kong people were more liberal and might chafe at censorship from the mainland. I wonder if such a movie as "Iron Monkey" would make it onto the mainland these days. And I wonder, too, if China exerts censorship over its movie exports.

May 19, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sounds like John Woo's Hard Boiled wasn't your cup of tea, Peter.

Oh, wait. Hard Boiled. Cup of tea. What a devilishly clever allusion to the most creative weapon in that scene. Very good.

May 20, 2012  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

Years ago I owned a book on HK cinema that I *loved*. It gave a good glimpse into the culture and exposed me to a ton of movies I'd never heard of. But I haven't had a copy of the book in a long time. It's called Sex and Zen and a Bullet in the Head.

http://www.amazon.com/Sex-Zen-Bullet-Head-Mind-bending/dp/0684803410

In hindsight it may have been one of the first books on the subject for US audiences and as such has it's flaws, especially when compared to books that cake after 1997.

But those books aren't as fun :)

May 21, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. That book might be worth a look. As for its being outdated, I'd be interested in comparing it to books that came as 1997 drew near and after.

In the course of this post, for example, I learned that Gigi from Macau would by 1994 or 4 have had to been wearing more than she wore when I bought her drinks in 1990.

May 21, 2012  
Blogger May said...

I imagine censorship must happen. The very popular film 'Infernal Affairs' starring Tony Leung and Andy Lau, for example, had an alternate ending for the mainland Chinese version (the corrupt cop gets arrested instead)

As solo said, many films get around the quota by being joint productions. Among other things, this usually leads to a half-Hong Kong, half-Mainland cast, delivering their lines in their respective languages and then being dubbed.

I am not a great consumer of HK/Chinese films, but I guess I've seen more than your average film-goer. My uncle would rent TV series and films from a VHS rental store in NYC's Chinatown. Comparing what I saw as a kid and what I've seen lately, what I consider to be a really big change is that HK films are no longer constrained geographically - the same old sparse forests, the use of sets - and this can make for really breath-taking settings.

May 30, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

... the corrupt cop gets arrested instead ...

So we're unlikely to see real noir out of Hong Kong any time soon, I guess.

That's an interesting comments about geographic variation. Thanks.

May 30, 2012  

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