Friday, December 16, 2005

Movie Culture

China's mainland doesn't have the movie culture the United States has. There's various reasons I imagine for this, and while I'd love to talk pages and pages, let's just say that the local movie industry is dominated by imports. Most people I talk to favor movies (and TV dramas) from Korea, with Hong Kong and Hollywood running close behind.

As mentioned before, bootlegs are everywhere to be found, selling for less than a dollar. It's tough to compete with that. I've talked about it some with people, do they ever go out to the theaters? Even though the people I've talked to have been fairly well-to-do, they always say no, it's too expensive. While the price varies, it's around $5-$10, which maybe hits roughly four times as hard in Shanghai as the US. There's only a handful of movie theaters in town - generally attached to upscale malls. Pictured below is the marquee to Peace Cinema, located right across the street from People's Park. It sounds Revolutionary with a capital R, but it's attached to a Taiwanese mall chain, and the lobby shares space with a KFC.

Personally I think mainland Chinese movies are not so great, often coming across as overly self-serious melodramas. Even more annoying is the recent tendency to make big-budget pseudo-artistic kung-fu movies. One just came out called "The Promise." It's gotten a lot of hype, and there's several large posters outside the Raffles Mall Cinema.

Which leads up to another point. Just as in the United States, pop stars are big business, used to promote products. While I haven't yet seen "The Promise," I'm guessing its mythological setting isn't the sort that would allow for either cell phones or compact Nissans. Still, products are being associated to the movie all across town, in a series of posters. This particular poster was seen in the halls of the Subway system, the place in Shanghai you'll see the most advertising.

Hong Kong stars are common in advertisements. To a lesser extent, you'll also see Korean and Taiwanese stars hyping products. One thing you never see in these advertisements is American celebrities. As a guess, that's because the American studios just haven't gotten around to it - some Hollywood movies and stars are extremely popular in Shanghai.

While I like talking the movies with people, one point of confusion is that Hong Kong stars in the US will go by their Cantonese name, often using a made-up English first name. However, in Shanghai they'll go by the Mandarin reading of their name's characters. Andy Lau becomes Andy Liu, Wong Kar Wai becomes Wang Jia Wei, and nobody knows who I'm talking about when I mention Sammi Cheng, pictured on the left as the cover girl to Bazaar magazine.

Some other stars? Andy Lau (to the right) is maybe the only really big male movie star here, and Cecilia Cheung (below, to the left of Harry Potter) is probably the most commonly seen actress - it's worth seeing their "Running on Karma" if you haven't, but I'd have to recommend skipping past their music. Karen Mok is on the cover of "Woman's World", Maggie Cheung did some jewelry advertisements recently, and Carina Lau rolls around on some bedsheets as if she was hopped up on dangerous amounts of Valium, in a line of advertisements I see on the subway car's TV screens.

1 comment:

Oaktown Crack said...

You mention talking to people here and there ... how's your Cantonese coming along? Are you starting to get it down?