Okay, just a brief post before I head out for day 3.
I was back at the Castro last night for two movies. First was "Summer Palace", easily the most sexually explicit film I've ever seen from mainland China. A decades long story of passion and political change, it starts in 1987, with Yu Hong (Hao Lei) arriving as a student in Beijing University. She meets Zhou Wei (Guo Xiadong) and they start a steamy love affair. Of course, this is also a tumultuous political time, coming to a head with the events of Tianamen Square. But what really surprised me (and makes me want to go back for a second look, when I know better what to expect), is that Tianamen Square, while possibly the climactic scene, is really the halfway point in the movie, as their stories start to diverge it continues for decades beyond, set against the political backdrop of the fall of communism elsewhere. Zhou moves to Berlin where he witness the collapse of East Germany (including a voice sample of Tom Brokaw reporting about it). Meanwhile Yu goes back to her village and gets married. Although their lives diverge, when they meet again there is still a spark of passion. Very interesting, longer than I thought it would be, and definitely worth a second look.
Then there was the event I was looking forward to since it was announced weeks ago. John Carpenter's "Big Trouble in Little China", on the big screen! And not only that, shown as part of the SF Asian American Film Festival. Finally I can enjoy that movie without feeling a little racist guilt at the overblown Chinese stereotypes, since I saw it with an audience of Asians. Unfortunately, when the crowd was mostly settled in and I surveyed the crowd, it was the whitest audience I've ever seen at an Asian film festival. There were some Asians there, but it was predominantly white guys. So I'll go back to my old justifications for why I'm not racist for liking "Big Trouble in Little China". First, the stereotypes are so overblown that they can't possibly be taken seriously. Second, while it's a fun action movie ride, it's also a playful parody of action movies, including Hong Kong action movies, and so it plays up stereotypes that were built up there. Third, the Chinese characters kick so much more ass than Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) that it's more a parody of the macho white guy. Jack's an all-American trucker and one of his stops is San Francisco's Chinatown. He has friends there, most notably Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), who looks like the scrawny sidekick character, but is really the hero. While picking up Wang Chi's fiance Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) from the airport, she's kidnapped by the Lords of Death, errand boys to the Wang Kong, and sold into a brothel. Along the way he meets Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), find out that Miao Yin has been kidnapped by David Lo Pan, the godfather of Chinatown who is a 2000+ year old ghost tormented by a demon until he can marry and then kill a girl with green eyes. So they have to fight him, with the help of local sorcerer/tour bus driver Egg Shen (Victor Wong). And I no longer care if it's racist. It's hilarious and it's rocking good time. Like Jack Burton always says..."What the Hell?"