Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Sixteen DVDs for $20. Welcome to China.

The Motion Picture Association of America is freaked out about bootleg DVDs, claiming they take $3.5 billion out of Hollywood every year, mostly overseas, and the streets of China provide some justification for the panic. No shaky images here, or muddy sound from video cameras snuck into theaters; these movies are ripped from rented discs or studio code. Some even add languages while retaining features such as directors’ commentary and deleted scenes.

“Kinsey” is so complete that the disc begins with the original’s energetic anti-piracy ad. (“Buying pirated films is stealing,” the ad says to fast, grinding rock. “Stealing is against the law.”)

But there are flaws as well, including copies of “The Piano” and “Con Air” that simply don’t work on U.S. players. There’s easily a couple of bucks down the drain.

Most flaws are limited to the packaging and are just funny. The back of the case for “National Treasure,” for instance, quotes Judith Crist as saying it’s “A beautiful and startling film,” pretty high praise for a Nicolas Cage action flick, albeit one apparently released by Miramax and starring Michel Serault and Valentina Cervi. The front brags that “National Treasure” is “From the producer of ‘Pirates of the Cartoden.’”

The front of “Frank Miller’s Sin City” is all good, but the back claims the movie stars The Rock and Johnny Knoxville and is directed by Kevin Bray, indicating that lack of attention to such details is not uncommon for Chinese DVD pirates. Another pirate shortcut, apparently when lacking studio marketing to copy, is to find descriptive text where they can, probably from online reviews or message boards, and slap it on with minimal concern for meaning.

“Plot Outline: An adaptation of Frank Miller’s stories based in the fictional town of Sin City,” says the blurb, and so far so good. “Chief amongst the town’s residents is Marv, who trawls the darkest areas of town looking for the person who killed his own true love, Goldie.”

Right. Then it wanders. Remember, this is uncredited jacket copy on a DVD:

I’m only a marginal comics fan — I read a bunch of stuff over the course of a year or two in college and haven’t read much at all since. Frank Miller was my favorite writer then and the I always loved the Sin City series. [sic] I didn’t realize the movie was even being made until I saw the notice for the preview screening (if that’s an indication of how much I follow comics these days).

But this is just for show, anyway. No one’s reading the back of one-dollar bootleg DVDs in crowded Chinese alleyways trying to figure out whether to buy, just as no one’s checking the nutrition information on a bag of heroin. These are people who know — how did it go again? — stealing is against the law.


Anonymous said...

So you're in China? No wonder it's been so hard to get in touch with you.

Scape7 said...

I'm not in China. More like the Chinatown Eatery. The difficulty is probably just coincidental.