An admission of failing here: the real China of the past thirty years; the China of Business and Historical Warfare films and so forth...this China holds little excitement for me. My China is the distorted one of the Occidental. The Romantic Version of the Western Merry Non-Celestial. The revisionist interpretation of the returning Sir Richard Burton. All silks and sandalwood incense. Harems and Veils. Limehouse and the Daughter of Fu Manchu. Vegetable Egg Rolls and plenty of Hot Mustard. And don't forget the Opium! Not exactly PC. But I care little of the criticism. My papers are in order. I'm on this train to Shanghai.
We're still progressive here, folks. One of my most admired persons is a lady named Anna May Wong. She fought against the Hollywood Tyranny Machine regarding Asian actors playing Asian roles. I loved Myrna Loy, but look at how she played the Eastern femme fatales, while an authentic talent like Miss Wong could not. And like another exotic dish, Josephine Baker, Miss Wong turned her back on the racist West and headed to Europe (or in her case, England) to perform to a more receptive audience. Anna May would return on her terms for a while and break the stereotype. Baker would call France home. This entry is illustrated with a collection of my Anna May Wong cigarette cards and souvenir postcards from Europe. You may remember the lovely t-shirt with her likeness worn by Dr. Wu-hu in a previous post.
So it seems my passion for the sensual delights and mystical aura of distant Cathay weaves in and out of different time periods, and real versus mythological images. My business gives me the opportunity of viewing numerous films from China, but the majority feel like soulless imitations of Western Westerns. I'm amused, but more so saddened, when I see Chinese directors who made revealing films of their country, then come to the U.S. and make comic book films. The contemplative films of Asia have receded. Action flicks over the interaction ones.
Cue David Bowie's "China Girl" song, or the one I used to play by The Korgis...I still enjoy the image of Tsai Chin, from Blow Up, You Only Live Twice, and all the Christopher Lee Fu Manchu films. I bought her autobiography and will watch her persecute Richard Gere in Red Corner. And speaking of that film, how about Bai Ling and her fall from grace? Don't piss off The Maker!!! From A films to being doomed opposite Michael Marsden. (And let's not even BEGIN to get into the reason why so many Chinese actors play Japanese.)
Well, after all is said and done, I don't think much has been concluded here. Except for a personal contradictory obsession with beautiful Chinese women (Playboy Playmates China Lee and Grace Wong), Western visions of the East, noodles, egg rolls and hot mustard, Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan and Mr. Wong. The best Shadow adventures took place in Chinatown, New York and San Francisco. All the exotic items were made of jade. Manfred Mann singing "My Little Red Book." Or was that Manfred Mandarin?
Happy New Year Celestials! The Year of the Snake.
As always, I remain,
Your Obedient Serpent (fx: "sound of gong").