Sunday, August 04, 2013

Rangoon and Back II

I've always thought that most people have some sort of natural instinct for discovering things when traveling that are of special interest to them. For example, I have one friend that you could put down on the moon and she would soon find a lovely restaurant with great ambiance and good servings of food. For another friend who is a voracious reader, he will come across bookstores, used and new, no matter where he is. For me it is stores that sell movies. Drop me in any major metropolis whether it be London, Hong Kong, Tokyo or Bangkok and within an hour I will be perusing through the shelves of DVDs and VCDs looking at all the movie titles.

So on my first morning I randomly strike out in a southerly direction from my hotel and soon notice far off to my left an odd but interesting looking rundown building of undetermined origins that looks worth investigating. It turns out to be the main train station in Rangoon (btw Rangoon is now officially named Yangon but I prefer the old name even if it was a Colonial British invention), a dank darkish interior filled with people waiting for trains that have a reputation for often being hours late. To get from one platform to the next you simply cross the tracks to do so. Burmese trains are so slow that there is little danger. Sellers of food or drink lazily circulate through the station. I notice that a train will be arriving soon from Mandalay and think how cool is that. Mandalay. Hasn't everyone at some point in their life thought how much they would love to be able to say "By the by, tomorrow I am on my way to Mandalay" Maugham and Kipling. I brought along Maugham's The Gentleman in the Parlour which charmingly details his travels in Burma and elsewhere in the late 1920's when the Raj still ruled. The good old days of whiskey and soda. Unfortunately, the train was arriving and not departing but some day I will get there.

        Come you back to Mandalay,

 Where the old Flotilla lay;

 Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay,

 On the road to Mandalay,

 Where the flyin'-fishes play,

 An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

After this I saw that a pedestrian bridge allowed one to cross by the train station and so I took this and soon my wanderings or my instinct took me down this narrow puddled street with laundry hanging from nearly every window. I soon realized that I had landed in VCD Alley, a street full of shops selling VCD's and festooned with movie posters. It was still early and they had not yet opened but I took some pictures of many of the posters hanging outside. I am assuming most of these are Burmese films but I could be wrong.

They have that definite straight to video look about them but I found them interesting in regards to what genres they seemed to represent. Comedy, horror, romance and a little action brought to you Burmese style. Oh and Batman and Superman. I should have gone back on another day and picked up a few but I was so busy trying to see as much as possible in a short span of time and in truth I sensed they would be cheap and awful and I think I have seen enough films like that for a life time. What I'd really love to see are some of the films from their Golden Age of the 1950's but that will take some research and I have seen very little on the Internet about Burmese films. Anyway here are perhaps too many of the posters I took pictures of.



Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm with you. I'd much rather see the classics of the 50s (which seems to have been a golden age for many national cinemas). But I'm glad nonetheless to see that there is currently a thriving output of genre films, even if they are straight to video.

Hopefully, some of those classics have survived the ravages of time, although I suspect the state of Burma's cinematic past is only slightly better than that of Cambodia.

Anyway, it's uncharted territory.And that's always enticing.

Brian said...

From what little I have been able to find on the Internet, the Burmese were making grand black and white films in the fifties, some of which were invited to International film Festivals. I would be surprised if many have survived. Using the posters as an indication, I get the feeling that they very much follow Thailand genre wise with a big emphasis on teenage comedies and ghost stories. And probably as bad as the Thai films in these categories with even smaller budgets.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Brian.
I cant believe you are still in my rss feed.

Brian said...

Tis simple sound fate;
That we meet like this;
On the road to Mandalay.

No matter how lined be my face;
Nor ancient be yon wee rss feed;
Together we go on the road to Mandalay.

Whoever you be, wherever your heart;
It is welcome like every rosy dawn;
On the road to Mandalay.