New Year’s Chungking Express

I ended up 2016 with reminiscing travel locations I managed to visit in the past 12 months, and I kicked off 2017 in one of the most crazy places: Hong Kong. I’ve dreaming about going there since I watched Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express, so it comes as no surprise that I stayed in a microscopic room for the first 3 nights at Chungking Mansions in Kowloon.

New Year’s Eve celebrations took place in Victoria’s Harbour – since I arrived there around 9 pm, I had no chance for a better view of the fireworks, but I was pretty impressed by the syncronised smartphone lights of people recording the show.

Afterwards, I stayed in the area of the Hong Kong Island called Causeway Bay renowned for its nightlife. And I fell in love with the skyline from the first sight. From above, from below, doesn’t matter from which perspective you look. As a comparison, I think that only the skyline of Nagasaki I visited in October last year can picture the sea, the mountains, the bay and the skyscrapers in such a harmony.

But Hong Kong is so much more than bars on the 144th floor, skylines and luxury stores: it’s a very strategic place on the map, and thus rich in its history. The influence of the British reign can be found in the presence of double-decker buses and trains, the language and the pace, and the city lives 24/7.

Although it is such a dynamic place (some saying New York City’s minute is Hong Kong’s second!), it does not lack amazing opportunities for hiking in the stunning nature sites. Victoria Peak and Dragon’s Back trails are definitely a must-do hikes with some of the most rewarding views in the world!

And Mid levels Escalator System – why would it be interesting? Apart from Kowloon, Midlevels is a part of Hong Kong featured heavily in ‘Chungking Express’. I tracked down all the places ‘starring’ the movie: the bar with Chef’s Salad is in reality a tobacco place, but the crowd on the escalators is equally crazy like in the movie. ‘Crowd management’ is actually very impressive in Hong Kong – lanes, overground pavements and escalator systems make walking around the city very convenient. Or even: possible, taking into consideration the number of residents and visitors, making one of the most crowded places in the world.

To relax and unwind (it was still crowded though, also with the cows!) I took a subway line to a green Lantau Island, where the famous Buddha sits on the top of the mountain. The journey paid off in the views, albeit the smog was quite thick on that day.

And the Star Ferry… The cheapest and the most romantic way to commute between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, offering the wind breeze and spectacular views for some 25 cents for a one-way ticket!

I know I will come back to Hong Kong at some point, but how will it look like the next time? During the time I stayed, I bumped into a ‘camping protest’ on one of the major streets of the Hong Kong Island. Movements such as the Umbrella Revolution show the democratic needs of the society.

Overwhelmed, enchanted after all that, we took a ferry to visit curious place called: Macau… And then, Taiwan!

 

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Techno symphony for Berlin Metropolis

Berlin, the acclaimed city of music, film and creative industry in general, received a very special gift last week.On 8th March 2016, Jeff Mills presented the premiere of his soundtrack for the ‘Symphony of the Great City’ within the Cinemix series. I have to say, that I am still speechless after his performance in a small studio cinema in Hackescher Markt. I am far from being a psychofan, but sitting not even 2 m away from the turntables of the maestro made it for unforgettable experience.

While the original movie is interesting enough to watch anytime, falling under the cinematic Berlin to-dos, the special history and link between Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, the industrial revolution, and finally the bridge of techno music for Detroit and Berlin, made the Cinemix premiere one of its kind. Legend of the early Tresor years captivated the mood, rhythm and musical landscape of the city, and I bet no one could rewrite the soundtrack better than he did, given his unique connection to Berlin.

Previously we could watch Jeff Mills’ Cinemix production of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, as below:

It is incredible, how relevant techno OST can be even after 90 years of the original movie premiere. During the screening of ‘The Symphony of the Great City’ I was stunned, how much the city changed, and at the same time, how much the energy remained the same. Alienation, industrialization, and on the other hand: consumption, excessive and extravagant social/night life describes the early years of 20th Century in Berlin much as the hype these days.

So in case you are curious to check the movie, here is the original footage of the Symphony of the Great City. I can only hope that Jeff Mills’ OST will become one of the most important, timeless masterpieces, universally defining Berlin as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and forward-thinking city.

Sunday Funday in Berlin: now & then

Today is one of these days one can only expect the unexpected in terms of the weather in Berlin. Intervals of sun, rain, storm and wind vary and it is rather difficult to plan anything outdoor. But the summer has been pampering the Berliners so far – even to the extreme.

Sundays are never boring: either you go on with the party mode or you go on a nature retreat. Alone or with friends – up to you, this city adjusts to all prefered options, be it brunch by the river channel, sunbathing in one of the public swimming pools or city beaches, visiting museums and galleries or cycling around the city.

It’s fun to see that the city was very active and alive on Sundays many years ago too, in the pre-Nazi era in Berlin. A light-hearted film made by Robert Siodmak in 1930 shows a group of the amateur Berliners in a very Sunday Funday mood. Many of the places pictured in the movie are still a very popular locations for hanging around on a sunny Sunday. However, it’s very interesting to see how the city looked before the WWII and live the spirit of the epoque: strolling down the Nicolassee, falling in love and chilling by the lake shore with a gramophone, or play with the sausages (just check this out!).

The movie will be shown in the Freiluftkino Friedrichshein next weekend (25th July) but for those that for some reason won’t make it, or are stuck at home on this rather rainy day, I attach you below an English-subtitles spoiler. Happy Sunday everyone!

Berlinaling

February, the shortest month of the year, yet it seems like one of the most intense ones, at least in the Berliner galaxy. During 10 days each year Berlin becomes (this time) a place to be for the most courageous film makers. I have always enjoyed watching “sad movies” (I absolutely fell for this definition of what non-mainstream stuff was reduced to – creative credit back to my dear friend who is most likely one of the very few readers!).

I was a full-time film festival animal back in a day when down-to-earth things did not matter, i.e. sometime between high school and studies, so it was quite refreshing to live this spirit after years. Eventually, I have only seen a few movies among hundreds, but it was worthwhile. I still had some work to do at the end of the day, there were some awesome concerts in town too (Tricky and D’Angelo!) and day still counts only 24 hours.

The prizes are already announced and I am especially happy for two reasons: the Silver Bear for the Best Script goes to Patricio Guzman for his diptic documentary about Chilean complexity of geography vs. history, and for the Direction – to my compatriot Malgorzata Szumowska. It was amazing to be the audience of this success, especially that I admired them both for their previous works. Otherwise, see you hopefully next year at the 66th International Film Festival!

image the curtain