Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Movies and China

The Elephant Pharmacy on Shattuck Avenue is a fancy sort of place, and most of the things it sells are expensive. But the store also rents DVDs, and the DVD rentals are a dollar a night. I only discovered how cheap the rentals were this weekend, and I perhaps went overboard by spending four dollars to rent Once Upon a Time in China, Iron and Silk, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Matrix Revolutions. I have little to say about the latter two movies, which I enjoyed, but which I'm glad I didn't pay full price to see. But the Once Upon a Time in China and Iron and Silke were more interesting.

Once Upon a Time in China stars Jet Li as Wong Fei-Hong, a legendary martial artist from some time when the Manchurians were in power. I first heard about Wong Fei-Hong after Winnie and I watched Around the World in 80 Days; in that movie, Wong Fei-Hong turned up as the father of Jackie Chan's character. Winnie heard the theme music and started dancing around: Wong Fei-Hong! That's his theme music! I have to make you see a real Hong Kong kung fu movie with him in it, she said. She was right. I think we both enjoyed the movie, and there was the additional entertainment (for me) of picking out the few Cantonese phrases I actually knew, and (for Winnie) of poking my shoulder during all the action sequences and asking can you do that?

Iron and Silk is a movie adaptation of Mark Salzman's book of the same name; in fact, Salzman plays himself, as does Teacher Pan (as the text in the credits said, Teacher Pan played himself because it is inconceivable that anyone else could). I enjoyed the movie, though I enjoyed the book more, but there was one flaw. Whoever made the movie must have decided that the lack of a love interest was a fatal flaw, because one was grafted on -- and the graft didn't take. I think I would have known that there was something off about those scenes even if I hadn't read the book. That's a shame, because the scenes that were taken from the book were a lot of fun, and I would have liked to see a few more of them.