Watching Chungking Express now is like time travel. Kai Tak airport, certain bars and restaurants, even corridors and escalators exist now only in the memories of those who once used them. Make a movie in Hong Kong, and it’s like making it in someone’s hometown. Imagine a small town of, say, 35,000 people, with only a handful of public places to shoot in. Then grow that town vertically, stand several thousand Guangdong villages on end, and you’ve got seven million people packed into the same public space, seven million memories of the blue-tiled walls of the Admiralty MTR station, the street with Bottoms Up bar and Swindon‘s Books in it, those filthy dusty corridors in crumbling ‘mansion’ buildings through which you thread your way after work to a friend and a cheap Nepalese curry. The result is a movie industry that is always filming just down the road from your branch of the 7-Eleven. The only trouble is, this bedraggled city sheds its skin every few years. Leave it for a couple of years, and not only have your carefully mapped buildings and your favorite alley, sky-walk, escalator routes through the city all been demolished,the actual topography has changed. The coast isn’t where it used to be. I can’t help wondering if this fluidity of matter, of actual concrete, lends itself to a tendency to literalistic, and take imaginary flight. That the relationship between the lasting and the ephemeral seems to have switched places in this town.
by Luisetta Mudie
But for all that, Moscow is more liveable now than ever. It’s expensive, it’s corrupt, it still has a raw edge that is very Moscow and driving still seems a competitive martial art, but nonetheless the city feels a lot more happy, more comfortable with itself than ever in my memory. There are green spaces and even a few benches, there are hipsterish loft-and-art-bar developments like the Red October factory make-over, and although it may reflect a Den Pobedy clear-out, there seemed fewer beggars and homeless bomzhy than in the past. It may be an artificial boom driven by hydrocarbons, a still-burstable bubble (how many of those massive new skyscrapers are occupied?), an anomaly or the result of Muscovites spending while they can and not worrying about the future when those oil prices fall, but regardless, it felt a lot more fun and welcoming than in the past.
Thoughts of Dr Mark Galeotti