The most expensive convenience shop in the world: the most boring film

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When I go to the Opera House, which is more often than my financial circumstances suggest I should, I often stop in at the convenience store at the Macquarie St side of the Quay Apartments (aka The Toaster) to buy some necessity: cigarettes; cough lollies or peppermints (to make up for the cigarettes); or sometimes an apple.

I have a kind of running joke with the proprietor (a joke to me; doubtless tedious to him) that his shop is “the most expensive convenience shop in the world.” This is hyperbole, as we both know I only mean most expensive in Sydney, but the phrase has a certain ring to it.  I’m not really complaining about this.  If I buy peppermints or cough lollies there, it is only because the Opera House is even more expensive and because I have been too badly organized to buy these things somewhere else beforehand.

The proprietor always remonstrates with me that his rent is very high, and I allow him that.  Last Friday, when I raised an eyebrow at his price for a tin of Eclipse sugar-free mints, he took a new approach:  “You should see the price at the shop on the other side.”

I knew he meant the convenience shop at Circular Quay East, which is Sydney’s touristic golden mile, approaching the Opera House on the waterfront with views of the Harbour Bridge.  Whatever his rent, I am sure that the rent for the other shop is higher, and the passing traffic greater. I conceded that his shop was the second most expensive.

Yesterday, on my way to a session at the Sydney Film Festival, I was able to put that to the test.  A tin of  Eclipse mints (is this my version of Burgernomics?) scanned in at an astounding $3.95.  But here is the interesting bit (almost worth waiting for).  When I demurred at this, the shopkeeper asked me, “How much money do you have?”

I was intrigued that he offered to bargain in this way.  I certainly had more than $3.95 on my person, but I answered “I’ll give you $3 for them,” which he readily accepted, as well he might – this was still healthily above the odds.  I noted (memo to the ATO) that he did not bother to ring up the revised amount at the till.

 Clearly, it is not only high rents which drive high prices, but also the availability of tourists who will pay them. Quelle surprise! Well, we’ve all been there.

It was an evening for superlatives. I saw “Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming-liang‘s” I don’t want to sleep alone. The Film Festival publicity said:

“The sense of dislocation and the desire for proximity is palpable in this deeply poetic, visually stunning film that pushes into painterly abstraction.”

So I can’t say I wasn’t warned. Deeply poetic, visually stunning and painterly abstraction are all code words for very slow.

Never have I felt compelled to check the time so often as I did whilst watching this film.  I was tempted to leave the screening.  If I had been near an aisle I might well have done so.  The experience reminded me of listening to broadcasts from Wimbledon in my childhood, where virtually the only fascination for me was the excruciatingly slow progress to some kind of outcome which offered an almost totally abstract satisfaction simply because I had to spend so long waiting for it and, having already invested the energy in starting to wait, felt compelled to “roll another cheese down the hill.”  When something finally happened in the film, it felt like a moment of harmonic concord, melody or rhythmic interest in one of those long atonal and non-melodic and rhythmically monotonous pieces of music, where those qualities, when finally vouchsafed, achieve their savour simply because they have been so long withheld. 

I have seen some of Tsai Ming-liang’s films before. There is always a lot of water, a physical affliction, and very little dialogue. But at least The River had some kind of denouement. You can see some bad films at festivals (especially at the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival, where we are all suckers by reason of the subject matter), and of course there are many bad, silly and trivial films which I simply would not be interested in seeing at all. This film is not bad: it is well executed according to its own aesthetic.

Tsai has found his metier and is sticking to it, but I’m not sure if I will going back to his next film for more of the same. It is always possible to conceive of a more boring film, just as you can always find a more expensie convenience shop, but as things stand, for me this was the most boring film in the world.

2 Responses to “The most expensive convenience shop in the world: the most boring film”

  1. Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] in Singapore” (not that was saying much) was stylistically very much in the vein of the most boring film in the world. Apparently, when you are dealing with a taboo subject, the price to be paid is no dialogue and […]

  2. Possibly the second-most boring film « Stumbling on melons Says:

    […] Possibly the second-most boring film I read the following from a review in the SMH of Flight Of The Red Balloon, the latest film by Hou Hsiao-hsien. Long-term readers of this blog may remember my account of the last film of his I saw, in my post The most expensive convenience shop in the world: the most boring film. […]

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