I used to write a blog called 'Life in China' when I was living there. The blog has long since disappeared (literally overnight and without warning, when the site was bought by profiteering scum XF.com) and I thought it gone forever, but the Wayback Machine has come to my rescue, and large parts of it are still extant. I shall therefore offer you a post from those distant days.
Art and Observations (1): first published on 4th October 2006
The ferocious heat and humidity are fading away. The North East monsoon brings warm, dry days and cooler nights. Time to reflect on a lazy summer of film, books, music and travel. Over the next few weeks I shall comment on some of the best things I have seen and heard, and some of the worst.
The Football Factory
"Being beaten up by football hooligans is like getting VD: the fucking pain goes on forever." So begins The Football Factory (Nick Love, UK, 2004) and with an opening like that this has to be compelling viewing.
Following the fortunes of a gang of Chelsea-supporting football thugs, The Football Factory has perhaps the most authentic dialogue of any British film I have seen. Anyone who has spent time in London's rougher pubs, as I have, will instantly recognize the truth of: "There's nothing different about me: I'm just another bored male approaching 30; stuck in a dead end job and living for the weekend: watered-down lager, casual sex, heavily-cut drugs. And occasionally kicking fuck out of someone!"
There is no football in The Football Factory; not a score reported nor a ball kicked. But it is ever-present as an unreal backdrop to this film, which is not exactly a breath of fresh air, more a stale draught of sour lager and smoke. I can do no better than quote the words of the hero, Tommy Johnston, as he engages in another mindless orgy of violence.
"What else you gonna do on a Saturday? Sit in your fucking armchair wanking off to Pop Idols? Then try and avoid your wife's gaze as you struggle to come to terms with your sexless marriage? Then go and spunk your wages on kebabs, fruit machines and brasses? Fuck that for a laugh! I know what I'd rather do! Tottenham away! Love it!"
So did I.
Sword of Doom
More hooliganism, but much bloodier, in Sword of Doom (Dai-bosatsu tôge) (Kihachi Okamoto, Japan, 1966). Set in 1860, at the end of the samurai period, Sword of Doom has as its 'hero' Ryanosuke, a samurai who goes around, er, killing people. He doesn't need any reason for this; indeed it is the random brutality of his slayings that make the film so extraordinary; the killings and Ryanosuke's hat, which should win an award for cinema's most terrifying headgear. From opening murder to final scene of insane, sanguinary mayhem, Sword of Doom is the best samurai, or rather anti-samurai, film there is.
Cops and Robbers
Some members of the Guangzhou constabulary have nothing to learn from Tommy Johnston. As I walked home one evening recently, I came across a crowd on the pavement. Peering over their collective shoulders I saw a man lying on the ground, his hands handcuffed behind him, being kicked in the head by three policemen. Boot! The man groaned, in pain; so did the crowd, in appreciation. Another boot landed in the man’s groin and he screamed. The crowd nodded in satisfaction.
"Who's he?" I asked a spectator.
"Just a robber," came the reply.
Then the vans arrived, and the robber was bundled in and driven off. That evening, still a bit shocked, I told Bonnie NoPay over dinner about what I had seen. She nodded. "Well of course," she said. "People want to see robbers punished!" She looked at me and grinned. "Tell me, are you more likely or less likely to rob now?"
I briefly considered arguing; I thought of all the liberal reasons why what I had seen was wrong. But I didn't bother; it gets to you after a while, the casual brutality shown to the individual here. As a person he or she is not important at all, only as a part of the great body of CHINA.
My oldest friend in China, Bonnie NoPay is great company. She knows all the best restaurants and I often find myself enjoying dishes I would never try normally: Baked Frog in Chilli Pepper, Pan-Fried Lamb's Brains with Spinach. She also has a wicked sense of humour. The only thing is, as a careful Cantonese girl, her purse is locked tighter than a virgin's thighs: it is the only one I know that smells of naphthalene. I gave her the name early on, when I asked her why she had chosen to be a high-powered executive secretary for foreign companies.
"Easy!" she said. "Cos I can go to Hong Kong and No Pay. USA and No Pay, Britain and No Pay!"
© Simon M Hunter 2006 & 2011