Thursday, April 06, 2006

I wish I had found Chungking Express

In Beijing, I bought a DVD of Crash for 75 cents from a street vendor.

I was advised not to buy movies off the street, because they would be likely to be very bad pirated copies, shot by some guy with a video camera in the movie theater, like in the famous Seinfeld episode. Indeed, this only made me more eager to buy DVDs from street vendors. So what if the video quality is bad and you hear other people's voices: just to be able to tell the story of that one time I bought a movie in Beijing and it turned out to be shot illegally in a movie theater, I am more than willing to spend 75 cents.

The movie, however, is an original copy, or perhaps an illegal copy of an original one. It has all the extra features, the subtitles are available in English, Chinese traditional, Chinese simplified, and Spanish, and so on.

Even in legitimate stores, DVDs rarely cost more than $4. I had a long list of movies I wanted to buy, but that I could not find in the short time I had to look for them. One more reason to regret the shortness of this trip.


  1. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/06/2006 04:55:00 PM

    It depends on how long the movie has been out. New releases will typically be guys filming in a theater, but don't underestimate the potential quality of these recordings. Some are very good, and you only "realize" they are filmed at the end when the people stand up and leave the theater. After movies are released on DVD, it's a trivial matter to burn copies for the street.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/07/2006 10:11:00 AM

    Ahh, Chungking Express! I did manage to find the Cranberries' song in cantonese by Faye Wang though :)
    So, in theory I should be replying to the blog entry, but in practice i just wanted to say hi. The resturant guide for Beijing is very helpful, if you need one for Rome let me know :)

  3. Blogger Luca
    4/07/2006 11:51:00 AM

    You must be the Jordan who once took me to see Goodbye Dragon Inn and who, lately, has been going to Rome more often than I have.

    It's no joke, if you have restaurant recommendations for Rome, I'll take them gladly.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/09/2006 08:26:00 AM

    Fortunately it is possible to get most of the Chinese movies in Europe - even if you have to use pretty specialised vendors or order from Hongkong by Internet.

    When I visited China in December, I was however interested in new movies (see here for a list). I managed to buy "Eros" and "Shanghai Dream". I guess others were available but at least in the stores I went to they didn't have English subtitles.

  5. Blogger Luca
    4/09/2006 12:52:00 PM

    Helger, it is not too difficult to find East Asian movies in San Francisco (3-Iron is available for rent in the video store around the corner where I live) and one can always use

    The reason I wanted to buy movies in Beijing was, in part, that I would spend between $.75 and $3 for each movie.

  6. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/10/2006 12:15:00 AM

    Well, I was just trying to help :). I didn't go for the price but for quality (or quantity), by buying this
    TV series of "The Romance of Three Kingdoms", 56 hours of military strategy, Chinese food and clothing. Fully commendable.

    For another extreme, do buy some mediocre Chinese pop. (Not Faye Wong, she is way too good!)


  7. Blogger Luca
    4/10/2006 01:02:00 AM

    Thanks for the recommendations, Helger.

    I replied before noticing that some of the movies in the list on your livejournal are actually not yet available for sale in the US. (Including the ones that you did find in China.)

    They sound fascinating; I will look for them when I go to Taipei next month.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/10/2006 08:52:00 AM

    I just saw about 7 DVDs od Chungking Express in a shop here in Taipei. They are very cheap as well.

  9. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/10/2006 11:24:00 PM

    I'm sure you know most of the restaurants but here's what I gathered. In general, I have to admit that the food I had in Rome was less than impressive! The only place I can really recommend is Il Pagliazzo. Also I tried Archangelo and it was not bad. Do not spend your money ( and lots of it!) on L'Altra Mastai though. There's always Checchino but intestines and tail are not really my thing. Next time I want to try Agata et Romeo.

    By the way, when are you going to be in Italy?

  10. Blogger Luca
    4/10/2006 11:48:00 PM

    That's right, in Rome it is neither easy nor cheap to find good food. In San Lorenzo, the working-class neighborhood close to the University, there are a number of trattorias that work old-style (no menu, the waiter comes and makes you choose one of two or three primi and one of two or three secondi) and are pleasant and inexpensive.

    When I was in Cortona last summer I was amazed of the kind of wonderful three- or four-course dinners we could have for 20-25 Euros. Unfortunately Rome is not at all like that.

    I might be in Rome sometime in August. Otherwise it will be around Christmas.

  11. Anonymous Anonymous
    4/14/2006 07:07:00 PM

    About films: I would be surprised if a majority of them would be available. You can buy some of them from but say Electric Shadows is only available with (Simplified) Chinese subtitles. Or Korean if you wish.

    By some reason, here (with non-English but European subtitles) "3 Iron" was shown several times in cinemas before the version with *English* subtitles became officially available. Though the "festival" version must have been ready quite a long time ago.


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