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AKA Mr. Chow

A new HBO documentary profiles the life of Mr. Chow, actor, restauranteur, collector and artist. The film opens with an off-screen voice throwing out movie titles with Mr. Chow sitting center-frame describing the first shot of that movie in detail. His delivery itself is cinematic and utterly captivating.

From there, we follow along as Mr. Chow recalls a life full of extraordinary experiences from boarding school in London to following his sister’s footsteps into the film industry to pausing his painting career in the 1960s to opening his first restaurant in the 1970s. At his restaurant, art intersected with cuisine where he would offer meals in exchange for paintings. The walls of his restaurant were adorned with the works of David Hockney, Jim Dine, Julian Schnabel, Ed Ruscha and many others, creating a gallery-like experience.

Amid his success, Mr. Chow also recalls incredibly sad moments in his life, particularly the fates both his mother and father met at the hands of the Maoist regime. It also touches on overcoming racism by channeling his passion for art, excellence and the promotion of Chinese culture through cuisine. "There's a reason I named my daughter China", he said.

His exuberance is contagious. At 84, he is incredibly youthful with his round spectacles and pompadour hair. His so-called “Act V” shows Mr. Chow "painting" with a blowtorch and eggs and capturing one of his gallery openings with his colorful, three-dimensional, mural-sized canvases.

While AKA Mr. Chow just scratches the surface, it’s an inspiring portrait of a man who triumphed over childhood trauma, personal loss and systemic prejudice with his eccentric style, showmanship and art. His huge personality and zest for life is just the thing to watch during the holiday season.

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