An email arrived late Friday, asking that I consider reviewing a particular film at this year’s San Diego Asian Film Festival Spring Showcase, running April 28–May 5 at UltraStar Mission Valley. The subject matter held no appeal: you can count on one hand the number of times life has landed me in a video arcade. And I was already up to my eyeballs in screeners sent by festival artistic director Brian Hu. But there was something in Kurt Vincent’s pitch that compelled me to hit Play. Seventy-nine minutes later found me writing the first-time director a thank-you note.
The Lost Arcade trailer
The Lost Arcade chronicles the life and death of the Chinatown Fair, a celebrated amusement arcade located in the bustling Lower Manhattan neighborhood. Vincent descends on his subject like an angel of mercy, casting light on the disenfranchised denizens that found in the arcade a home away from home. (Akuma Hokura, a foster home escapee and one of the film’s dominant subjects, progressed from living off stray quarters to sleeping in arcades before landing a job at the Fair.)
Many of today’s gamers weren’t born during the PacMan boom of the 1980s, so don’t expect any misty-eyed mawkishness to cloud the director’s vision. As for a personal hook, home game consoles killed the video arcade star as sure as VHS and DVDs poisoned the waters of theatrical distribution. The analogy is obvious, leaving one to question why he didn’t go all the way and name it The Last Arcade to tie in with Bogdanovich’s Picture Show?
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The Lost Arcade screens Saturday, April 30, at 5:25 p.m.