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SPANK GOLD: London Film Festival 1993

37! Hey, try not to suck any more film festivals in the parking lot! Before taking a look at the programme for the 1993 London Film Festival, let's take a look at the programme - as in, the printed booklet where they initially announced what films were going to be shown. In 1993, as in all the previous years I'd attended, it was a chunky A5 beast, an expanded version of the usual National Film Theatre monthly programme. This would be the last year it would appear in that format - between 1994 and 1996 they experimented with a clumsily oversized 12" square affair, before settling on the A4 magazine we still have to this day. 1993 was also the last year when a big name artist (in this case Eduardo Paolozzi) provided the programme cover image - subsequent years would be more geared towards anonymous-looking graphic design, which was a bit of a loss as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, the main reason why I'm going on about the programme booklet is because my copy of the 1993 edition has a pull-out insert with all the pricing information. I must have lost the equivalent insert for 1992, otherwise I would have realised that was the year when the matinee voucher scheme was brought in for the first time. (The 1993 programme describes it as 'back by popular demand after last year's success'.) For those of you graphing the prices as they increase over the years: in 1993 you'd pay £5.95 for an NFT screening, £6.95 for one at the Odeon West End, £8.00 for the Opening and Closing Galas, and £40 for a set of ten matinee vouchers.

Nevertheless, even with that sort of deal, I still wasn't taking time off work to catch cheap matinees. It still surprises me just how restrained I was at these early Festivals - generally one film a weeknight, occasionally two, with a small splurge in the middle weekend. Here's what I remember about them.

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Terracotta Far East Film Festival

Rina Takeda in High Kick Girl! Now that you've looked at this picture, try looking at it again for twice as long, because apparently that somehow makes it better. Watching sumo, learning Japanese, travelling around China... it's all been a little bit Asiacentric here this month, hasn't it? Well, if you don't like it, tough: it is how we roll, as Ando Masahashi said in one of the few episodes of Heroes I've ever watched. And before the end of the month you'll also be getting a Spank Gold post on the 1993 London Film Festival, which included movies from Hong Kong, China and Japan.

As you may have noticed over the years, the LFF doesn't quite fulfil all my Asian cinema needs. But although the Wild Japan seasons cover the classic exploitation movies from that country, and the apparently defunct Heroic Grace did a similar job for Hong Kong, what we're really short of right now in London is a regular pan-Asian cinemafest. The Tartan Asia Extreme Festivals did a good job for the couple of years they ran, even though they were just a thinly-disguised advert for movies that Tartan would eventually release on DVD.

Happily, it looks like new company Terracotta Distribution has decided to step into Tartan's shoes: firstly by distributing new Asian movies in the UK both theatrically and on DVD, and secondly by organising a small festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend. You've already missed it, but here are some highlights for you.

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SPANK GOLD: Year Of The Monkey 1993: Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards

The Park Hotel, Hong Kong, August 1993. And some dick in a hat. (You can't see it, but I'm wearing an Ocean Park baseball cap just out of frame. Honestly.)If you hang around the travel section here at all, you'll doubtless be familiar with the lengthy delays between me visiting a country and finally getting around to writing about it. Well, I suspect the 16 year delay between this particular trip and the writeup is likely to remain unsurpassed for the lifetime of this site.

My excursion to China in 1993 - primarily undertaken so that I could be on the opposite side of the planet from all my mates on the day I turned 30 - was the first time I'd ever travelled outside of Europe, and was the beginning of a love affair with Asia that's lasted to this day. Later this year, I'll be going back to the Mainland (with The Belated Birthday Girl in tow, of course) for the first time since that holiday. So a look back at 1993 seemed like useful preparation for that. I exhaustively documented the trip in a ONE HUNDRED MINUTE LONG HOLIDAY VIDEO which took its title from a Billy Bragg song: don't worry, I've rewatched it so that you don't have to. (Though about thirty minutes of the best bits are available on a YouTube playlist if you're curious.)

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Nihongo Quick Lesson

Mr K and Rena don't know what you call it. Do you?It's all very well for The Belated Birthday Girl spending several years of her life studying the Japanese language, including three months last year at a college in Sapporo. Most of us don't have anything like that level of dedication, and are looking for quick-fix cheaty solutions. So each time we travel to Japan, I usually try to find some crash course method of learning Japanese beforehand: be it the Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook, Japanese for Dummies, Teach Yourself Instant Japanese or Earworms Rapid Japanese. All of them have taught me a couple of phrases apiece, but weren't much more help than that.

But why did I assume in a post-literate age that books or CDs could do the job, when a ten-minute TV programme is probably more my intellectual level?

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Armchair Sumo For Lazy Bastards

Sumo exercises for non-lazy bastards, courtesy of the Nihon Sumo Kyokai website I saw my first sumo tournament in 2004: you might remember I wrote about it here. I never really bought into the first big wave of UK sumo fandom, when Channel 4 started showing it regularly in the late 80s. It wasn't until I saw it, as it were, in the flesh that I could see what all the fuss was about.

I'd been hoping that I'd get the chance to do that again this year: a series of exhibition bouts had been arranged for this autumn at the Royal Albert Hall, and I was gearing up to drag some of Spank's Pals along to it. Sadly, that's not happening any more, another victim of the credit crunch and a yen that's stronger than Asashoryu right now.

Still, all is not lost. For some time now I've managed to keep up with the regular sumo tournaments over in Japan: and with a little knowledge and a reasonably high-speed web link, you can too.

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Simian Substitute Site for May 2009: ...Monkey Fighting Snakes...

...Monkey Fighting Snakes... I know, I know: after all the ballyhoo about getting the Prague Christmas writeup on the site in time for Easter Sunday, things went a little quiet around here. Blame it on a combination of a busy period at work, plus most of the computers in my house deciding to go wrong in different ways at the same time. That's why you got all of Spank Gold '92 in a big pileup over the last two days of April.

Hopefully, things should be slightly better organised for May. Spank Gold hits 1993, a year when I didn't go to Edinburgh. What I did instead should start giving you some clues about plans for later this year. You should also get a movie review, and hopefully one or two other bits and pieces. And I'll try to space them a little more evenly throughout the month, if I can.

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