My new friend, Bong Lae, writes young adult novels involving zombies on a school trip. After dinner, he bounds over in his orange hoodie and asks if I’d like to join him and two other Korean writers for a walk. We set off on a trail (“easy one, please!” I request, because I am super out of shape and the Koreans seem to walk a lot).
Along the way, I ask Bong Lae to teach me how to say the Korean names of things we come across. “Kang ah ji” (puppy). “Hal mi got” (grandmother flower). “Jin dal leh got” (spring flower).
We reach a little clearing, and stop there for a while. The Korean writers try not to laugh at me as I make a big deal about the hairy chestnuts that had fallen from trees onto the ground. Suaku Singaporean.
On the way back, the conversation turns to movies. I tell Bong Lae about my obsession about Korean films, particularly those of Park Chan Wook and Bong Joon Ho (having gone so far as to write a couple of research papers on them). He, in turn, confesses a love for 1980s Hong Kong cinema.
“My boyhood,” he sighs. “A Better Tomorrow! Chow Yun Fat!”
We start humming the theme songs to A Better Tomorrow, Parts 1 and 2, as we stroll down the path – complete with dramatic trills and heart-clutching actions.
“Sunglasses and Burberry coats,” reminisces Bong Lae, miming putting on the garb of Hong Kong movie gangsters.
“And you have to shoot like this!” I add, trying to do a slow-motion balletic jump to the side, with my arms out, holding imaginary pistols.
“Double guns!” he says.
“No more bullets, just throw away!” I concur, flinging my spent fictional weapons on the ground.
“Best ever!” says Bong Lae.
“What about the Korean remake?”
He makes a consternated expression, puts his hands on his knees and pretends that someone has kicked him in the gut. “Bad! Bad!”
We agree that we should get our hands on the DVDs of the original John Woo trilogy, and screen Parts 1 and 2 (“Part 3? Bleagh!”) on the TV of our common room, and force the other Korean writers to watch.
And so concludes my anecdotal report that 1980s Hong Kong cinema is so great, it continues to bring people across Asia closer together, more than 30 years later.