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IMAGINARY CHINATOWN

September 29 to October 9

The international Chinatown, accessed through red lacquered gates bearing formidable dragon motifs, has been a vital aspect of both history and myth-making in the West for over 200 years and counting. At once a place of yearning for the farflung homelands of an ever-growing pan-Asian population abroad and a locale onto which the West’s collective fantasy of the Orient can be projected, the exotic exteriors and supposedly mysterious, vice-ridden corridors of Chinatown have never failed to stir the imagination of Hollywood. Chinatown has been rendered as a hyperbolic fantasy space where anything—even Mogwais—can be bought and sold; where one partakes in copious amounts of opium from what a Broken Blossoms intertitle calls “the lily-tipped pipe”; where crime and sin are believed to go unpunished because the locals play by their own rules and “Forget it, Jake—it’s Chinatown.” While far too often trafficking in insidious stereotypes, when not exclusively featuring white actors these were among the first films to create roles—albeit caricatured ones—for pioneering Asian-American performers. Metrograph pays tribute to the complex tradition of Chinatown on film.