How many of the films that we see do we remember with any accuracy? How many films are retained in our minds as simply a memory of having seen them, of a reaction to them and perhaps a generalised sense of atmosphere, an emotional or aesthetic texture? These films are like dead links in our brain — click on them and they reveal nothing more than that they have severed all ties with the information that they are supposed to represent. It seems likely that the large majority of films seen — including very good ones — end up quietly dying to our consciousness in this way. Those that are spared this fate fall into two categories: films seen very recently and those that are frequently discussed, that form part of an overall framework — either personal or academic — of film history that we operate within, films important to our overall vision of what the cinema is, markers of some form of excellence that we return to repeatedly and judge other films against. Yet even these can be prone to unconsciously fade from our grasp, sometimes to be substituted in our minds by bizarre mutations or to develop black holes of forgetfulness.
If the story of Chinese cinema begins on Dingjun Mountain, we might say that it hangs its tail on another summit—that of Fruits-and-Flowers Mountain, the home lair of the Monkey King. Of ambiguous biological and cultural origin certainly there seems to be a family resemblance to the Hindu monkey-deity Hanuman , Monkey is not of any particular place and consequently has proven to be infinitely adaptable—his story capable of effortless travel to other times, places and contexts. Our enduring fascination with Monkey, however, begs the question: What is the function of a Monkey tale? Indeed, in an ailing Tezuka made a pilgrimage of his own—journeying west to China to meet up with his longtime idol, Wan Laiming, one of the original directors of Princess Iron Fan. There are Monkeys for every season and every ideological wind. To think of Monkey as a figure for the taxonomical field of Chinese cinemas is a reminder not to lose sight of the guileful, illusory, and ever-mutating nature of the beast: any attempt to pin it down would be eluded and shape-shifted away.
I met Gonzalez at the reopening party for The Datai and this charming, fascinating man is an oracle of all things foot-related. When I was there a marauding male macaque monkey would sometimes appear to steal teacups out of the hands of guests relaxing after therapies. Gonzalez says he only has his studios in beautiful locations — island resorts like the Datai or gorgeous hotels such as the Peninsula Tokyo, the Royal Mansour Marrakech or the Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.
Arctic Monkeys arrive in a studio in New York to have their photos taken for Esquire. This afternoon they are due to perform "Do I Wanna Know? Though all five of their albums have entered the British charts at Number One, it is their most recent, AM , that has been their breakthrough in the US. In explaining its irresistible mix of heavy guitar riffs and r'n'b grooves, Alex Turner has cited Outkast, Drake and Aaliyah but also Black Sabbath as influences. Or, in words that demonstrate both the frontman's fondness for playing with language and his belief that his job sometimes requires him to make statements that you or I might consider faintly preposterous — the same belief that will soon cause a quite remarkable fuss at the Brit Awards — said it sounds "like a Dr Dre beat, but we've given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster".