Film + Travel Asia, Oceania, Africa: Traveling the World Through Your Favorite Moviesby Museyon Guides
Featuring color photographs of movie locations, sites, and landmarks, this guide for film buffs and travel lovers provides information about notable scenes from 139 movies shot throughout Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Drive into the parking garage at the University of Melbourne and follow in the footsteps of Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Go to the 83rd floor of the/i>
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Featuring color photographs of movie locations, sites, and landmarks, this guide for film buffs and travel lovers provides information about notable scenes from 139 movies shot throughout Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Drive into the parking garage at the University of Melbourne and follow in the footsteps of Mel Gibson in Mad Max. Go to the 83rd floor of the International Finance Centre in Hong Kong and see where Angelina Jolie jumped in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Whisper your deepest desires into the walls of Ta Prom Temple in Cambodia and re-create In the Mood for Love. Warm up your vocal chords at Karaoke-kan in Tokyo and pay homage to Lost in Translation. Discover which tiny Tasmanian town of 300 residents inspires Hayao Miyazaki, the anime mastermind behind Spirited Away and Kiki’s Delivery Service. Find out when the scenery of Vietnam is in Cambodia and when it’s in Puerto Rico and much, much more.
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Film Travel Asia, Oceania, Africa
By Museyon Inc.
Museyon, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Museyon Inc.
All rights reserved.
NOCTURNE: THE CITY IN PICTURES
HONG KONG, CHINA
Most memorable experience in film/travel: A set visit to Wong Kar-wai's Ashes of Time in remote Yulin, China, on the edge of the Gobi Desert. In that moment, modern China — both the technology of filmmaking and Wong's cinematic sensibilities — merged with the old.
Hong Kong is a dizzying patchwork of sleepy colonial past and vibrant capitalist present. In the shadow of gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers lies a rabbits' warren of streets, where cobblers mend shoes in tiny stalls while modern-day businessmen and women in Prada suits rush by, checking their iPhones. Add to the mix breathtaking views — from mountain peaks to undulating harbors — and you have the makings of a very photogenic city.
Moviemakers from around the world have long been drawn to the city's visual splendor, and despite its modest size, Hong Kong — now a Special Administrative Region under the People's Republic of China — has a powerhouse of a film industry. Foreign film companies first arrived in the 1950s, when location shooting and stories set in the exotic Far East were all the rage in Hollywood. Films from these early days included both comedies like The Road to Hong Kong (1962) and melodramas like Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955) and The World of Suzie Wong (1960).
In the 1990s, the territory produced over 200 films a year. Many were shot on location, making use of winding old roads and sleek modern freeways, dilapidated tenements and soaring mansions, smoky temples and state-of-the-art shopping malls. Some — especially action films like those by John Woo, Kirk Wong and Johnny To — found avid audiences abroad.
These days it seems the skyscrapers have taken over. In the last ten years, a host of old buildings has been torn down, parts of Victoria Harbour filled in, and a whole crop of new buildings raised up. But the old persists. Even off busy Queen's Road, a block or two from the subway, sidewalk stalls still line the alleys, selling clothing and household items; old-style cafes and noodle shops are tucked in amongst the trendy coffee shops and boutiques. So it makes sense to start a tour with a couple of wonderfully old and scenic ways to get about the city: the ferry and the tram.
HONG KONG FERRY
There's a delicious moment in The World of Suzie Wong when Robert Lomax (William Holden) first meets the saucy Suzie (Nancy Kwan). She jumps up from her seat on the Star Ferry when he begins to stare at her. Just arrived from the United States, he's a budding artist and wants to draw her picture. But when he approaches, she barks, "No talk!" That's because she's a very proper young Chinese lady, she says, who cannot speak to strangers. Later, in Wanchai, a dodgy working-class area of old Hong Kong, he finds out the truth: she's a lady of the night.
The Hong Kong Ferry goes from the tip of Tsimshatsui — on the tip of Kowloon Peninsula across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island — to the Central and Wanchai areas of the city. This is a cheap way to get across the harbor — and wonderfully scenic, as well. Pay in advance and go to the waiting area, but note that boarding and disembarking happen very quickly; during rush hour you may get pushed along in the crowd. (Here, as in other crowded places, mind your personal belongings!) Or try taking the trip in the evening, when this city of skyscrapers is lit up like a diadem at the edge of the dark churning waters.
The double-decker tram is another of Hong Kong's readily available sight-seeing opportunities, and a bargain to boot — it's only HK$2 for a ride from end to end. Pay exact change or swipe your pre-loaded Octopus card on your way out. Trams go slowly, stopping frequently, and run through the main arteries of congested downtown. Some are headed to Kennedy Town on the western end of Hong Kong island, and to Shau Kei Wan on the eastern end. Others veer off at Causeway Bay toward Happy Valley, one of the two major racetracks in gambling-happy Hong Kong. On race days, these trolleys are packed to the gills with working-class folk on their way to the tracks; the moneyed take the taxi or private car.
The trolley has figured in a number of Hong Kong films — including one of my favorites, Rouge (1987), directed by Stanley Kwan and starring the haunting Anita Mui as a prewar courtesan who returns to modern Hong Kong in search of her long-lost lover. It's a love story, it's a ghost story, but most of all it's a story about the passing of time and the changes in the city — some good, some not so good. In one memorable sequence, the protagonist gets on a tram, thinking he's alone on the upper deck, when a strange woman (Mui) appears out of nowhere. When he realizes that she's a ghost, he's terrified.
Chungking Express (1994) was many foreigners' first exposure to auteur Wong Kar-wai. It was his third film, and his first truly international one — distributed in the United States by Quentin Tarantino's own Rolling Thunder Pictures. The film is an offbeat romantic comedy in two parts, both about lovelorn cops. Much of part one is set around Chungking Mansions (36 - 44 Nathan Road), a block-long building in busy Tsimshatsui that's known for its eclectic mix of restaurants, shops, restaurants and some very cheap hotels and long-term residences.
In Chungking Express, He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is a plainclothes cop slowly coming to grips with the fact that his girlfriend has dumped him. He befriends a blond-wigged woman (Brigitte Lin) at a bar, but unbeknownst to him, she's a gangster having a bad day. She had recruited several Indians from Chungking Mansions as drug runners — but they disappeared on her at Kai Tak Airport (now defunct). Wong's follow-up to Chungking Express was Fallen Angels (1998), which also starred Kaneshiro, this time as young man who lives with his father in a Chungking Mansions rooming house.
Parts of the Hong Kong films Comrades, Almost a Love Story (1996) and Infernal Affairs (2002), were shot in the area around Tsimshatsui and adjoining Mongkok (see below). And the James Bond flick The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) features a scene in which Bond (Roger Moore) walks up to the Peninsula Hotel, the last of several legendary old Hong Kong hotels. Though extensively renovated, it retains a grand lobby, which is a marvelous place for drinks or afternoon tea. Later, lying in wait for the villain, Bond lurks outside the infamous Bottoms Up, a girlie bar located in Tsimshatsui at the time of filming; in 2004 it relocated to Wanchai.
Just north of Tsimshatsui is Mongkok, home to Temple Street and its famous night market of hawkers, fortune-tellers and sidewalk singers. The market features in the romantic comedy C'est La Vie, Mon Cherie, a sentimental favorite when released in 1993. Here, romantic lead Lau Ching Wan gets his fortune told and Anita Yuen, playing his perky love, and her family perform Cantonese opera.
Victoria Harbour is the body of water dividing mountainous Hong Kong Island from Tsimshatsui. The harbor and its beautiful coastlines have been seen in many films, from the opening sequences of Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955), which starred Jennifer Jones as a Eurasian doctor, to the action-packed police thriller Rush Hour (1998), starring Jackie Chan as a detective. The former highlights quaint go-downs (warehouses), buildings constructed in stately British-colonial style, and even a port filled with junk — all hard to find nowadays. Rush Hour, on the other hand, presents modern Hong Kong — including a glittering, panoramic nighttime view of the Central and Wanchai from the water.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) also showcases the skyline, as the villain (played by Ciaran Hinds) lands his plane at a (nonexistent) private airport. Director Jan de Bont remembers landing at the old Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon. "It was quite exciting, landing between the high-rise buildings," he once said, "and that's what I kinda had in mind — to recreate that a little bit." In that shot one of the most identifiable buildings is the Bank of China Tower (1 Garden Road) designed by renowned architect I. M. Pei, whose dessign was inspired by tall and resilient bamboo. Opened in 1990, the 70-story building is faced with tinted glass divided by braces in a triangular pattern. For a few years it was the tallest building in Hong Kong, before — in this ever-ambitious city — it was bested by one still taller. Still, it's worth visiting the observation deck on the 43rd floor, which affords a fine view of the harbor.
The Art Deco Bank of China, a solid and stately old building (2 A Des Voeux Road), is nearby. The China Club, the private restaurant and club founded by David Tang (who also founded the Shanghai Tang stores) is at the top. You can take the elevator up and look around the lobby, with its quaint Shanghai-deco interior and avant-garde Chinese paintings, or if you know a member, go inside and enjoy some of the best dim sum the city has to offer.
ON LOCATION WITH ZHANG YIMOU
Takeshi Kaneshiro was late. Again.
It was December 2003 and we were on the set of House of Flying Daggers, Chinese movie (and now, Olympics) director Zhang Yimou's follow-up to the wildly successful Hero, which had outperformed even Titanic at the mainland Chinese box office. As they had been for the last week or so, the crew was hard at work shooting the justly famous bamboo forest action scene in a nature preserve in Yongchuan County, approximately an hour's drive from the city of Chongqing in Sichuan Province.
Kaneshiro, the half-Japanese, half-Taiwanese heartthrob best known in America for his turn as a love-struck young cop in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, had managed to make himself extremely unpopular on the set by virtue of a work ethic somewhere between that of a wayward puppy dog and ... a love-struck young cop. Nobody could figure out why it always took him so long to come out of his trailer. Maybe he was too busy checking the expiration dates on pineapple cans.
There are, contrary to popular belief, few places in the world as boring as a film set. Long stretches of tedium with nothing to do are punctuated by mere moments of "action." This is doubly true of the set for a film that involves a lot of CGI, because the time involved getting the technical details right grows exponentially, and because you have to "imagine" what the final result is going to look like. And it's trebly true of a film set at which one of the two main stars hasn't shown up yet.
So, with nothing better to do, my companion and I began to wander around. There's something particularly magical about the sunlight in a bamboo forest. Bamboo trees are narrow enough, and their leaves sparse enough, that much of the sunlight passes through unimpeded — yet at the same time it's reflected and refracted into a kind of murky green. After walking awhile, we emerged onto a trail along the side of the mountain, from which we could see the bamboo trees below us swaying in the wind, as well as the industrial smog from a city nearby.
In due course we grew tired of all the walking and headed back to the set. Kaneshiro had finally arrived, and the crew was busy preparing a shot that would take an hour to shoot and last all of about two seconds on the screen. My companion and I found some seats. We followed what was happening on set for a time, but our interest quickly waned, at which point we cracked out some books and started reading.
After a particularly exasperating take, Director Zhang looked over and noticed us with the books in our hands. "You two are lucky," he said, almost wistfully. "You're actually learning something, cultivating your minds. Me, I'm just over here cranking out entertainment."
(Courtesy of Kerim Yasar)
Another scene in Lara Croft shows the fearless heroine (played by Angelina Jolie) jumping from the 83rd story of the International Finance Centre on Harbour View Street — specially Two IFC, the tallest building in Hong Kong. At the time Lara Croft was filmed, it was under construction, but the latest installment in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight (2008), also makes use of Central's skyline and skyscrapers — and a completed IFC. In a breathtaking leap from Two IFC to One IFC, Batman, having tracked a villain from Gotham to Hong Kong, smashes through the glass exterior into an office to capture his prey. The real complex includes offices and a lively shopping concourse on lower levels.
LAN KWAI FONG
Both cops in Chungking Express patronize a small carryout, the Midnight Express, on Lan Kwai Fong, a popular restaurant and club street just above Central. The name is also given to the area formed by the intersections of Lan Kwai Fong, D'Aguilar, and Wyndham Street. In Rush Hour 2 (2001) there's an exterior shot of a nightclub there.
In part two of Chungking, the uniformed Cop 663 (Tony Leung) meets with Faye (Faye Wong), who works behind the counter of the Midnight Express — but alas, the place no longer exists. It's now a 7-11! The whole area, in fact, has gotten quite gentrified of late, and is now full of expensive boutiques and upmarket bars. Still, it's a lively nightspot, attracting Hong Kong yuppies and Westerners alike.
TIMES SQUARE/CAUSEWAY BAY
Causeway Bay is a busy shopping and restaurant area popular with middle-class families and the young, although with the creation of the swank Times Square it's gotten downright hip. In Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) Lara and her partner-in-adventure Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) find themselves in the plaza of Times Square. As pedestrians swirl around them, they attempt to locate a special orb, which is in the possession of the villain whose lair lies in the building before them. The real Times Square offers 14 floors of shops and restaurants; the gourmet CitySuper market in the basement purveys delectable imports from Japan, Europe and the U. S., including a nice selection of wines. On the same level there are also a number of good fast-food vendors and a common seating area.
In Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), the notorious Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) goes to Hong Kong in pursuit of a mafia boss. He lands at Kai Tak Airport and checks into The Excelsior Hotel, situated right near the Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Noon Day Gun, which fires every day at noon, according to a long tradition. In Die Another Day (2002) James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) escapes captivity and jumps off a ship into Hong Kong Harbour, emerging at the Yacht Club. Alert viewers will note that, since the high-rises of Hong Kong Island are visible across the waters, it can't be the actual Yacht Club — but that's movie reality for you!
Here, as across Hong Kong, one can find the old amidst the new. For a vintage experience, visit the Goldfinch Restaurant (13 - 15 Lan Fong Road), which serves Hong Kong-style Western food like pepper steak and borscht. This dimly lit eatery still evokes the 1960s, when it first opened. No wonder Wong Kar-wai had the would-be lovers of In the Mood for Love (2000), played by Maggie Cheung and Tony Leong, meeting there. §CHAPTER 2
INSIDE AND BEYOND THE TOURIST TRAPS
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
Most memorable experience in film/travel: Visiting the Great Wall of China near Beijing. It was incredible to see what humans were capable of.
A discussion of contemporary Korean cinema would be incomplete without mention of filmmakers like Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho, just as a tourist's trip to Seoul would be empty without a walk along the Han River or a meal at a budae jigae jip (restaurant specializing in "army trash stew"). The works of contemporary directors such as Park and Bong have been lauded by the most discriminating of international critics, but also widely viewed by Korean theatergoers, and they all share a clear and realistic shot of Seoul's most recognized elements.
What makes the global acceptance and praise of these filmmakers particularly poignant though, is its taking place despite what until recently were considered commercially unbreakable cultural barriers. Until the 2000s, many of the Seoul locations I will mention here would only have been interesting to native residents.
Excerpted from Film Travel Asia, Oceania, Africa by Museyon Inc.. Copyright © 2013 Museyon Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Museyon, Inc..
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Museyon Guides are visually oriented travel guides, accessibly written for the greenhorn as well as the aficionado, featuring academic-quality information on artistic and cultural interests and obsessions. They are based in New York City.
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