Saturday, September 20, 2008

有话好好说 - Keep Cool - Film Review

I've got a blurry view of Zhang Yimou.  I can't quite figure out what his style is, and I'm not sure whether he's a good director who occasionally makes crap films, or a crap director who occasionally makes good films.  The truth is probably just too complex for a simple view like either of those to hold.

I haven't seen his films in any chronological order, and that doesn't help.  I first saw Hero and 'Surrounded' (aka House of Flying Daggers); fun, anodyne f ilms lacking much substance.  Then I saw Happy Times, which I really liked.  It had a soul and a sense of humour.  Then I saw Raise the Red Lantern, which was burningly haunting.  

And then I saw 'City of Golden Armour', aka 'Curse of the Golden Flower', aka 'Curse of the Golden Breasts'.  

Keep Cool is probably closest to Happy Times, which is to say, it's one of Zhang's films which I really liked.  The pace and feel of the film is almost reminscent of early Wong Kar-Wai films like Chungking Express and Fallen Angels.  This is probably because of the on-location shooting, and the largely handheld, constantly dancing cinematography.  

And in the same way that Chungking Express seems, to me at least, to capture something of Hong Kong, Keep Cool is quite an accurate depiction of Beijing.  The dialogue is chock-full of Beijing dialect (or rather, they speak in Beijing dialect throughout the whole film), our main character played by Jiang Wen (from Green Tea) is somewhat of a hooligan, and it relies on the distinctly Beijing sense of humour, or at least North Eastern brand of humour.  The scene with Zhao Benshan (who was also in Happy Times) reading poetry outside the apartment is particularly hilarious.

With any luck, Zhang's next film will be more along these lines, and not some epic, craptacular.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Little Hong Kong

Last night my friend and I went to Sunnybank, as usual, and this time tried out a place called Little Hong Kong.  I had the BBQ Pork Rice, 叉燒飯,which as a dish is probably one of my favourites of all time.  It wasn't bad at Little Hong Kong, wasn't bad at all, and they also have an appropriate menu of drinks like Hong Kong style tea, 港式奶茶.  I recommend that one. 

There was no toilet humour this time, but something was a bit off.  My friend and I ordered in Mandarin, which was understood.  But when I tried to say thanks in Cantonese, (no idea how to input the characters but pronounced something like m'goi), I got a blank response.  Then I explain in Mandarin that I'm saying thanks in Cantonese, and the waitress replies "I don't speak Cantonese".

In a restaurant called Little Hong Kong?  Seriously?

Thankfully they are open until 1am so at least they got the opening times rather authentic.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Toilet Humour

On Wednesday a friend and I went to Sunnybank for some Chinese food. Our conversation (we catch up each week) usually goes something like this:

P: "So, where do you wanna go?"
C: "I'm easy, what did you have in mind?"
P: " about Sunnybank?"
C: "Sounds good"

We often go to Little Taipei, 小台北, but this time we went to a place called "Malaysian Corner", if I remember its English name correctly. It could be slightly different, but what stood out was the fact that it bore no resemblance to the Chinese name, 旺角餐廳, i.e The Mongkok Diner. The menu was partly Malaysian, but only partly. I'm guessing it's modeled on Chinese restaurants within Malaysia, making the assumption here that there is a large Cantonese population which settled a while ago in Malaysia (I'm pretty sure this is true).

Anyway, I got a dish of Kungpao Chicken, 宮保雞丁or 宮爆雞丁depending on where you go, which was tasty but had nothing on what I used to get at the cafeteria of my apartment in Beijing.

Given that the food was nothing to blog about by itself, and that I'm in need of interesting things to blog about since returning from China, at least the toilet didn't disappoint. There was a sign which read:

please do not squat on top of the toilet seat whilst using the toilet.

I found it particularly funny to find such a sign in Brisbane. I've never seen a sign like it in China before, and didn't see any in Hong Kong that I can remember. I have had annecdotal evidence from female friends which suggests that such a sign is certainly justified at certain McDonalds within China as people adjust to a seated toilet as opposed to a squatted toilet.

I guess that it's overseas Chinese (especially overseas Cantonese) condescension at their 'cousins from the country' which provokes them to put up such a sign in a Chinese restaurant in Brisbane.

Anyway, I'd only give The Mongkok Diner 2/5 for it's Kungpao Chicken, but the toilet adornments made the trip worthwhile.