A man in a business suit soars in the air like a kite. One minute he’s floating in the clouds. The next he’s hurtling to the ground. It’s the opening scene of the 1963 film 81/2 by Italian director Federico Fellini, a movie that inspired the name of Wang Ming-huang’s (王明煌) cinema and film library in Greater Taichung.
“It’s all about dreams versus reality,” said Wang.
Wang has operated the 81/2 Classic Theater for the past 22 years. The small movie theater and library comprises a downstairs screening room with a 150-inch screen and 30 seats. For many cinephiles, the biggest draw is Wang’s vast film catalog, which consists of more than 3,000 flicks at the last count.
Movie buffs across Taiwan go to Wang, who also operates a mail order film rental service, to find rare and obscure flicks.
For NT$1,000, members can rent 12 movies and have access to Wang’s library of film-related books and magazines. Without a membership, renting films, which come on DVD, costs NT$100 each.
“I love to introduce new movies to people,” said Wang, 51, while sitting on the edge of a chair piled high with DVDs. “I have movies that you can’t find anywhere else but here.”
A devoted fan of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Taichung resident Mike Reczek visits 8? Classic Theater at least once a week for a movie and a cup of tea.
“Modern movies bore me,” said Reczek, 42, whose choice of movie, such as the 1928 silent movie Four Sons, is usually found at 81/2 Classic Theater.
Searching the shelves of Wang’s movie theater is like going on a treasure hunt, Reczek said. He’s discovered gems from Billy Wilder (One, Two, Three from 1961), John Ford (The Searchers from 1956) and Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo from 1959).
What: 81/2 Classic Theater
When: Open daily (except Tuesday) from 2pm to midnight
Where: 592 Hueiwen Rd, Greater Taichung (台中市惠文路592號)
Details: For more information, contact Wang Ming-huang on 0938-624-690. Films have English and Chinese subtitles
“Not that I have anything against color, but I’m really into black-and-white [films],” said Reczek, who added that good storytelling, a focus on cinematography and interesting dialogue are missing in many of today’s high-budget movies.
For Liu Sen-yao (劉森堯), 81/2 Classic Theater is the best place to get his hands on silent movies, such as the 1925 Russian-language epic Battleship Potemkim.
Liu, a professor at the foreign language department of Feng Chia University in Taichung, relies on the theater’s vast movie library as a resource for his literature and film course.
“Any movie you can think of, [Wang] has it here,” Liu said. “It’s the best place to find classic movies in Taiwan.”
While Liu, 60, might be enthralled by the beauty of a dialogue-driven Ingmar Bergman film, convincing his young university students to think likewise is another matter, he said.
“I grew up watching these films,” Liu said, “but students have a hard time understanding these kinds of movies. They think they’re boring.”