Friday, January 12, 2007

Little Shop of Photos


While I was in Hong Kong recently I got my needed fix at the Star Photo store. This is rather an astonishing place for HK film fans who like to either collect or simply gaze at pictures of their favorite stars. Or perhaps immerse yourself in them is a better word. The place is tucked away in a small rundown nearly empty mall in North Point in which none of the stores ever seem to be open for business. In fact, this store rarely opens till 6 pm and only stays that way till 8 or until the owner gets bored and leaves. It can't be much bigger than a large walk-in-closet, but within its claustrophobic walls is pure love and affection. The owner has had this store for twenty-five years and has filled it with so many pictures that he has to sit on a small plastic stool in the hallway. In a city that seems to have so little time or patience for its past and often so little regard for its film heritage, this gentleman is almost heroic for attempting to keep this store going and for keeping a small piece of Hong Kong film history alive. For how long I don't know as customers are a rare breed. Upon entering one might guess that it was hit by a demonic cyclone with loose pictures strewn everywhere in seemingly random chaos - even often underfoot - but whenever I ask him if he has any photos of a star (having the Chinese name is very helpful), he thinks for a moment and then drags out a plastic container with them - sometimes only a few, sometimes hundreds. The majority of the stars are from the heyday in HK films - stars from the 80's through the mid-90's - as he doesn't seem to have much interest in the newer ones. While perusing through the photos and breathing in the memories, time passes almost unnoticed in the windowless space as if you are in an episode of the Twilight Zone - no one passes, no sounds are heard - just phantoms of the past rustle about in this little store looking to be remembered for a few brief moments - maybe this guy is alive only for my visits - if so I thank him. The store is loacated at 33 Marble Road. If you get out of the subway at North Point Station, look for the theater that has all the Chinese Opera posters up and Marble Road is only one block behind it. If you ever go, tell him that the guy who buys hundreds of pictures says hello!

Here are ten photos I got of Chow Yun Fat. It was Chow Yun Fat and Brigitte Lin that sucked me into Hong Kong films never to return. Between the two of them they had more charisma than the population of Hollywood combined. As I mentioned yesterday I thought Chow was the coolest guy alive after seeing him in all those John Woo films - his blood soaked white suit was the epitome of style. Then he went to Hollywood and forgot to pack that charisma and I can't say I have kept up much with his post-Hong Kong career. I mean I have seen all his Hollywood films but I honestly can't even recall what they were. Of course before John Woo, Chow had a lengthy career in televison - a period from which a number of these picts are clearly from - but interestingly his career had begun to fizzle badly before Woo took a chance on him for "A Better Tomorrow" and nothing was the same for Hong Kong film again.

Chow 1

Chow 2

2 comments:

sbk said...

What fun to see photos of a younger Chow before he became a famous Hong Kong movie gangster.

Happy to hear the photo shop is still in business.

I hope you'll share more of your photo collection with your readers.

Thanks for sharing the Chow photos with us.

sbk

YTSL said...

Hi Brian --

A couple of details for those of your readers who are unfamiliar with the photo shop in question and would like to try to get to it when they (next) visit Hong Kong:-

1) The name of the store in question is the Starlight Photo Shop; and

2) "the theater that has all the Chinese Opera posters up" is called the Sunbeam.

And yeah, would agree with you that the photo shop guy is one of those people who deserves to be acknowledged for his part in maintaining as well as publicizing Hong Kong's film heritage.