Posted by He Said
Several weeks back I had the opportunity to go see a movie with my coworkers here in Beijing. It was a big night as movies here are very expensive to see in the theatres, probably to help make up for all the DVD piracy. We went to see Alice In Wonderland in 3D on Imax. I have never seen a 3D movie on an Imax screen before, and it was very impressive.
The movie experience started out as does everything here, with similarities to home but with small variations and Asian twists. If it were not for the movie posters all written in Chinese, I suppose I could have been in any large theatre in any large city in the states. Well, except for the beer being served with popcorn or that I was the only person with a naturally occurring hair color other than black. In fact the shining sea of black hair is only rarely punctuated with slight artificially colored variations on the local public or from the occasional blonde or redhead expat. Oh, and the white haired Chinese albino - complete with white mustache - we saw today. What are the odds of being an albino Chinese person, let alone my odds of seeing one on the subway?
Getting back to the movies… It was a very interesting experience. As we neared the show time, an employee came out and started shouting at everyone to line up. What I found odd was that we didn’t line up at the entrance to the theatre, but facing the wall next to it, and they took this very seriously, I assure you. As soon as we were all in line it was redirected towards the entrance where everyone basically reshuffled and pushed for a better place in line.
Why do I find all this so strange? We all had assigned seats. Yeah, get in line, jockey for a better place in the next line when you are directed towards the door, push and shove to get in, and then find your way to your ASSIGNED SEAT! I guess the jockeying for the best place in line, first on the subway, first to the front of everything when there are 24 million of you in one city just gets in your blood. Even with assigned seats.
I really enjoyed the movie because it was in ENGLISH with Chinese subtitles (in 3D of course). For once I got all the jokes. I understood all the subtle nuances of the conversation. In fact I found myself laughing out loud at many places where the rest of the Chinese audience just sat and stared. It was pretty cool.
After the movie, I was waiting to get on the subway with two of my coworkers and we were talking about action movies, and of COURSE the topic came around to asking if I knew who Bruce Lee was. I will have you know when I was a kid, I was a Kung Fu fan. Yeah, I even had a Bruce Lee poster on my wall. The Chinese are very serious fans about Bruce Lee. He is still very iconic here and several people I have talked to here believe that neither Bruce Lee nor his son Brandon Lee’s deaths were accidental. “They were murdered” I am told. I did not argue the “facts”. What the hell do I know about Kung Fu conspiracies. Now if you want to talk about whether slot machines are “loosened” or “tight” I am ready to go. Give me your best shot.
So there we are talking about Kung Fu and action films and they get very excited and ask if I know who Jet Li is. Like I said, the Chinese I have met take their Kung Fu heroes and movie stars VERY seriously. Now I have watched a few of Jet Li’s films and to speak truthfully, they didn’t do a whole lot for me. But I know, it’s Kung Fu, right? So I say “Oh Yeah!” and do my best arm swinging Kung Fu moves and stance, screeching out “whoooaaaah”.
I think I looked a little something like this.
They both looked at me quizzically and said in unison with completely straight faces “No. That is Jackie Chan.”
I stand corrected.