China: Alternative Film Showcase
12 Jun 2006
You know what the cool thing about buying DVDs in China is? I mean besides them only costing US$1. You may get stuck with bad copies if you buy from unscrupulous vendors (or if you’re too impatient), and not every mindless comedy makes it to the streets of China, but I am continuously amazed at the obscure stuff that does make it here. Any China expat can tell you stories of finding some really random old movie from his childhood on DVD in the unlikeliest corners of China.
Just recently I found The Ewok Adventure (1984) on DVD bundled with Ewoks: the Battle for Endor (1985). I grew up in the 80s, so ewoks were an important part of my childhood. I picked up the two-disc set. I was disappointed to discover that the contents of the DVDs did not match the DVD covers; it was the short-lived ewok animated series I had actually bought. Laaaame. (I may have a soft spot for certain 80s nostalgia, but I do have my limits.)
Bad 80s made-for-TV movies aside, all the exposure to less mainstream films is great. Some DVD shops seem to specialize in obscure movies. I’m not sure if the selection is intentional or if they somehow get stuck with the “dregs” of the DVD shipment. I see quite a few French films, but stuff from all over as well.
Two movies I watched over the weekend:
Les Revenants, AKA They Came Back (France, 2004). I was intrigued because this was a zombie movie with very different zombies. French zombies. And they didn’t attack people or eat brains–they just came back… only they were a little odd. This had serious psychological consequences on the loved ones to whom they returned. Pretty interesting movie, but it dragged a bit in the second half and didn’t have a very satisfying ending. Also, I kept waiting for a zombie to flip out and chomp on someone’s living flesh, and it never happened. At least this movie had good English subtitles, so it was only weird French cinematic metaphors for life and death and acceptance (or whatever) that were confusing me, and not language as well.
Tsotsi (South Africa, 2005). I picked this one up because I really know very little about South Africa (ignorance is bad), and I kind of wanted to hear the African hip hop mentioned on the back. I also had the foolish hope that the movie would be in English, so I didn’t check for English subtitles. Instead I was treated to 94 minutes of Afrikaans, with no English subtitles. Actually there was very little dialogue in the movie, though, so the Chinese subtitles gave me more than enough to follow the story. I definitely enjoyed this one.