Life is Cheap...But Toilet Paper is Expensive (Original Cut)

New 4K Restoration

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Lightbox Film Center at University of the Arts is pleased to premiere the newly restored original cut of Wayne Wang’s Life is Cheap…but Toilet Paper is Expensive as part of our ongoing film preservation initiative.

In 1989, while on location in Hong Kong shooting the feature film Eat a Bowl of Tea, director Wayne Wang drew inspiration for his next film from real-life experiences as well as local news stories. The resulting film, Life is Cheap…but Toilet Paper is Expensive, is a crime-world docu-fiction populated by foul-mouthed cab drivers, seedy hucksters, aging Elvis impersonators, and privileged upper-class progenies. A nameless Chinese-American courier (Spencer Nakasako) arrives in Hong Kong to deliver a mysterious briefcase to the “big boss.” As he becomes involved with the boss’s mistress, things spiral out of control and he journeys deeper into the criminal underworld and his own tormented subconscious. Wang punctuates the action with a series of monologues delivered by a host of unforgettable characters in a tableau vivant style. Life is Cheap… is a dizzying, hallucinatory travelogue of pre-handover Hong Kong with a touch of American, Wild West cowboy theatrics. Despite the film’s absence from the public eye for all these years, it has lost none of its original energy and wit. (Wayne Wang, USA, 1989/2021, 84 min.) In English, Cantonese, and Mandarin with English subtitles


Digital restoration by Lightbox Film Center at University of the Arts in collaboration with University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Funding provided by Ron and Suzanne Naples. Restoration and remastering supervised by Ross Lipman in consultation with Wayne Wang.

Special thanks to Arbelos Films

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