Although I hadn't been planning to buy any DVDs when I went to Gongbei on Monday, I decided to drop in on a shop that had the largest and most varied selection that I had seen anywhere in Zhuhai. I didn't spend much time there when I first stumbled upon it, mostly because their labeled price was 30 yuan per disc, twice the standard elsewhere; even if you take that as a starting point for bargaining, it wasn't a good sign. But as soon as I commented on the high price the clerk offered to halve it, and when I said I'd buy at least ten if he'd cut the price to 12 yuan — about $1.60 — he agreed (after checking with a manager, a move that might have been just for show).
I selected three vintage Chow Yun-Fat movies, plus The Myth, a 2005 Jackie Chan Chinese film; Ling and I saw a little bit of it on a TV in a department store the last time we were in China, and it looked watchable — certainly better than any of his American efforts.
I was surprised to see these obscure arthouse titles for sale in China: The top two are compilations of early American avante-garde cinema; The Pervert's Guide is an idiosyncratic bit of film criticism that I missed when it played the Film Center a few months ago; and Come and See is an acclaimed Soviet WWII saga from the 1980s.
The classics: Godard's Breathless, Schlesinger's Billy Liar, René Clair's Under the Roofs of Paris, and a Keaton hodgepodge of obscure shorts, commercials and TV appearances, and other miscellany.
Leaving with my haul of rarefied cinematic works, I headed for the back alley shop where I'd previously bought a few Hollywood pics of more recent vintage for a third of the price of the mall stores. This time I bargained the price down to 4 yuan, just over 50 cents — the cheapest I've ever bought DVDs in China (or, I suppose, anyplace else). I couldn't resist the chance to pick up a few titles that had come out since I left Chicago, to cut down on what I'll have to catch up on upon my return (although actually, none of them are likely to have made my must-see list). Brian De Palma's Redacted had only been in theatres for three days when I bought it; sometimes these newer-than-new bootlegs are made with a camcorder held in front of the screen at a preview, but in this case it was duped from a studio screener — the ID code ocassionally surfaced at the bottom. And I bought the cheaply packaged set of the first five seasons of Scrubs largely to satisfy my curiousity about how they squeezed 100+ episodes on just five discs.