Makeshift inventor Christian Seiersen unveils four innovative ideas to help Hong Kong cinemas do justice to their plethora of cinematic talent.
The year is 2010, Hong Kong is a gleaming palisade of skyscrapers, sophistication billows from the sidewalks and jazz wafts through the alleyways. The city is ruled by businessmen, but oozing through their fists is the seductive taste of culture, a creative alliance of the East and West. As French actress Jeanne Moreau once mused, “cinema is the mirror of the world”. In the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong, movie theatres will need to adapt accordingly.
Pump It Up
The first issue requiring attention can be best described as post-Kung Fu syndrome, or the ‘red mist’ as it’s known on the cinema attendants’ grapevine. It stems from the fact that no human of healthy mind can watch a martial arts flick without feeling the burning desire to re-enact the film’s most intense fight scenes in the cinema foyer afterwards. Be it a hurricane of hits or a half-hearted ‘chicken’ kick, no advertisement cut-out is safe.
Boasting an illustrious cinematic relationship with the Kung Fu genre, Hong Kong is at particular risk from the aforementioned condition. Resident movie-maker Stephen Chow is cultivating a reputation as something of a genre-bender by adding a mischievous dab of comedy to his action films- see Shaolin soccer and Kung Fu Hustle -while fellow countryman Bruce Lee is credited as the father of modern martial arts. It has no mother, it was conceived asexually when Lee windmill kicked himself in the spine. In such fertile fighting grounds, Hong Kong cinemas are in need of a fool-proof plan lest they become slapped by a weighty tome of law suits, cataloguing the destructive misdemeanours of the red mist.
What I propose, wait for it, is an army of Blow Up Dolls, and not the type found in Hong Kong’s red light district (cue comedy drum roll). No they have a loftier purpose, to dampen the flames of the red mist and soak up the possessed audiences’ flurry of fist blows. As if their buoyant impishness wasn’t enough of an incentive, the dolls will be masqueraded as some of life’s most loathsome characters; a man-sized mosquito, Kim Jong-Il and the human embodiment of rain. Then, aside from comic book hero Superman’s next gang of nemeses, you have a brigade of bash absorbers and a child-friendly antidote to post-Kung Fu syndrome. The Beat Up Doll, coming to a cinema near you.
Whose line is it anyway?
Not many can deny the enchanting mysticism of the movie subtitles that have been translated from Chinese. A rich metaphorical tapestry weaved around the rigid tablet of Chinese grammar. Take recent directing duo the Pang brothers offering Storm Warriors, and the fight talk of its villain, Nameless. “Today, I will use my immortal body armour to break the myth of your sword skill.” This sounds more like the strained foreplay of a historically-themed porno.
Then you have the risk of buying one of Hong Kong’s numerous fake foreign language DVDs. The over-zealous middle man. Tasked with writing the subtitles for the pirated films and inspired by six weeks of English lessons in the basement of a brothel, they take it upon themselves to add their own ideas to the lines. An Oscar-worthy script is soon transformed into a rabbit hole of strained similes and misplaced commas. Now Russell Crowe’s heartfelt gladiator speech to Emperor Commodus- “I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next…” -becomes a tad shrewder. “I am able to get you, back right now or, maybe after I die…”
With this abundance of writing talent floundering in the sewers of their movie industry, what better way for Hong Kong to offer the hand of salvation than commission more than one set of subtitles for their films? Consequently, foreign audiences will be able to vote on what Hong Kong’s movie stars should be saying with a choice of subtitle options. When approaching a gang of hoodlums, will karate king Jackie Chan excrete a cheeky quip or impart some words of wisdom? The outcome is decided, but the possibilities are endless. A sexually-confused Chow-Yun Fat? Bruce Lee the scientologist? You decide.
Let there be light
Housing some of the genre’s finest directional talents, Hong Kong is no stranger to the fields of romance. One such exponent, Wong Kar Wai, revels in the poetic aspect of cinematography, furnishing his works with characteristically unconventional camera angles and pixelated close-ups. With its walls awash with amour and the scent of passion lingering in the air, movie theatres- as the experienced partisan will tell you- are fertile ground for ‘the sneaky stretch’.
A worldwide phenomenon, the sneaky stretch is when a male` courter greases the potentially awkward act of putting his arm around a female companion by combining it with a yawn, or an innocuous point. Techniques differ across the lands, a current American sensation is a two-armed device which allows the advocate to keep an arm around his wife while the real one grazes on a food supply the equivalent of Uganda’s agricultural output. Yet still one aspect remains, the stretch dances best to the tune of love.
Imagine, if you will, a screening of Wong’s Palm D’Or nominee, In the Mood for Love, an ultimately tragic story of two star-crossed lovers, their romance thwarted by the fickle nature of chance. As the film unfolds, as if sparked to life by a distant mother ship, male arms will slide cautiously across the chasm of cinema chairs before pouncing at the appropriately amorous on-screen cue. Because of its enticing prospect of a rejection, the audience deserves to be a part of this spectacle. I’m thinking spotlights.
Operated by only the finest talents in lightmanship, many of whom have sharpened their skills in circuses, their job would be to scour the audience and bathe anyone attempting the reach around in cold, piercing light. Good luck explaining that at the job interview. The stakes now raised, the sneaky stretch is catapulted from a nonchalant manoeuvre to a token of affection hotter than Dante’s Inferno. Move over wedding proposals at baseball games, there’s a new sheriff in town.
A game of two halves
Faced with the bludgeoning cinematography and barrage of blasts that constitutes today’s action films, Australian cinemas have struck gold. In order to prevent their audiences’ brains imploding from boundless activity, they have introduced a half-way interlude for a film. During which, the audience can regroup and remind themselves they are not in a Vietnamese POW camp. All to the soundtrack of a tinkling piano. This is a start, but we need to think big here in order to rival the American Superbowl’s legendary half-time shows.
With a vibrant expat population, Hong Kong is a melting pot of cultures meaning that anything, from robot duels to saxophone recitals, is plausible. Much raucous has been made in the West of various talent shows, such as Britain’s Got Talent, which enable the average Joe to show off their hidden talent in spoon-bending to a panel of judges. So why not tap into this abundance of free entertainment and unleash them onto movie theatres. Hell, make a day of it! It can be Hong Kong’s answer to a Roman family outing at the coliseum, but without the Christian slaves.