Holidaying in Hong Kong (I)


Here we are again - I'm in Hong Kong on holiday. I arrived late Saturday afternoon, went straight to a friend's apartment, got showered and changed, and then flew out the door straight to dinner. From there we went to the usual haunts: Carnegie's, The White Stag - and then back to my other mate's flat where I'm crashing for the week.

The first thing I did Sunday? High tea with friends (lots of them!) and then the new 'Wonder Woman' film. (The film deserves a complete post by itself.) A lot of tea later, and it was already Monday. That meant shopping for Hong Kong films on DVD, yam cha with a friend, then the pub quiz in the evening. Getting lightly inebriated and trying our best without the aid of electronic devices was a lot of fun I haven't had in a long time. It felt good.

Today - ah yes. I found a couple of books I wanted in the Hong Kong Book Centre in Central - nice to know the place is still there. They had exactly 1 book on Cantonese; everything else now is Mandarin and it's infuriating. However, a couple of other books purchased and I was happy. I rode the tram in and out of Central (one day I'll get on at Sheung Wan and just go all the way down to Shau Kei Wan - just because I can) and thought about watching an HK movie in an HK theatre.

A quick look at the run-down for all cinemas on the island - and for Kowloon - yielded just 1 HK film on release right now. That's right - 1. Do you remember the days when 1 or 2 would come out every week? I do. It seems in the 3.5 years I've been away, the HK film industry has downsized roughly 90%. How and why has this happened? A lot to do with actors' contracts and how money now comes from the mainland. Off they go and make mainland movies in Mandarin, leaving the HK film scene pretty desolate.

I'm not happy about this turn of events. How it's come about I have no idea - except for the clues left by US films that have opened worldwide recently. I'm talking about Ghost in the Shell (2017), xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017), Allied (2016), Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016), and of course Star Trek Beyond (2016).

These films have been backed by giants Huahua Media and some others by the Shanghai Film Group, as well as a handful of American production companies as usual. China currently has a restriction on foreign movies; they can only make up 25% of the market in the mainland. (This may increase to 40% in 2017.) Being backed by powerhouses such as Huahua Media, and a few small adjustments to where some of the scenes are shot or processed, means that movies are no longer subject to this mainland restriction. Hong Kong has no such restriction; they can and do show as many non-HK films as they want, when they want.

The wider implications of this are interesting; if you can now show more US movies in the mainland anyway, and the spread of mainland money and production companies into America means that more movies are free of any restrictions on top of this, doesn't that mean that mainland audiences will be witness to a lot more foreign movies? (Probably heavily censored of course, as in the case of Chow Yun Fat being mostly removed from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, for making it look like 'Chinese' people can be the bad guys if they want.)

Doesn't this also mean that China's film industry may slow down, due to their production companies bank-rolling foreign films, but also finding less of a need to keep blockbusters in the theatres?

So why filtch all the talent from Hong Kong to make mainland movies? Is it the agents' faults, sending their stars over the border, or is it in contracts with studio bosses, or is it just that the films over there are better paid?

Whatever the reason, Hong Kong films are on the decline, just a decade after Infernal Affairs single-handedly saved the local market and paved the way for recent hits such as Cold War 1 and 2 (and where's my part 3, anyway?).

This means that, for me on holiday in HK, I have 1 film to watch, and even that is on limited release because it's nearly at the end of its window. Films don't hang about here - they're changed pretty quickly. Whether or not this is to keep people's attention, or just a case of HK having a population of 7 million and everyone who's going to watch it has done so in the first 2 weeks anyway, is debatable.

I was really hoping for a few HK movies before I have to fly home, but it doesn't look like there are any to be found. I will keep searching, but it's not looking good.

In other news, we have dinner tonight and then I have more sourcing and shopping to do tomorrow before we go to Happy Valley to see the races. Believe it or not, although I lived in HK for 11 years I've only ever been to the races once before, and that was at Sha Tin.

So while I get in all the food and the film shopping and a few work books to keep my Cantonese from being completely forgotten, I'll keep any eye on the cinema here just in case something open Thursday night I can see.

That's pretty much all the news that's fit to print. See - I told you I'd try to blog more.

Soopy-twist, everyone, at least for now.

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