Entering Wong Jing's office is like going into a time warp. Besides the prosaic, yellowing decor and the smoky ambience (his staff still light up at their desks), the most eye-catching feature of the director's inner sanctum is a wall covered with miniature posters of his celluloid triumphs - mostly from the 1980s and the early 90s. If not for the presence of a solitary poster for his new film, My Kung Fu Sweetheart, Wong's room could have passed as a pre-millennium time capsule. Then again, there isn't much 21st century about My Kung Fu Sweetheart. The farcical comedy about feuding kung-fu clans embroiled in a modern-day commercial conspiracy could have been something straight out of Wong's glory days in the 80s. Its plot trades on a mishmash of infantile gags, visual parodies of other films, and implausibly over-the-top characters - such as a washed-up martial-arts heroine trading stocks and touting her daughter to rich tycoons - and a twist-free, happily-ever-after finale. Election and 2046 it isn't. Not that Wong minds. As long as it sells up north - and it does, he says. 'The feedback there was excellent,' Wong says, describing a rapturous reception after a preview in Beijing, when the film was shown to mainland distributors alongside Fearless and The Shopaholics. 'So you have Fearless, which is looking at box-office receipts of over $100 million - and they have about 300 copies in circulation in Chinese cinemas,' he says. '[Sweetheart] has printed more than 260 copies. You figure it out.' Wong did. One of the canniest operators in Hong Kong's film industry, he knows where the next dollar lies. That's why he's gone to the mainland, where the vast market is easier to please. 'I'll be in whichever market can provide a bigger financial return,' he says. 'But if I really have to choose between playing to either - it won't be Hong Kong I'll make compromises for.' But just as Wong has abandoned Hong Kong, film- goers here have deserted him. The director - who admits to spending half his time in Beijing - no longer has the influence he wielded over local cinema during the 80s. Audiences have moved on from the scatological humour or flesh-flashing sleaze of Wong's most successful hits, such as the God of Gambler films and the tasteless Raped by an Angel series. But rather than move with the times, Wong derides the way Hong Kong has turned away from what he considers to be good, old mass entertainment. 'Audiences here now love niche subjects,' he says. 'It's so difficult to operate here these days. Those [directors] who make arty films are just trying to evade the challenges of making a commercial hit.' Wong's recent output includes blatant imitations of Sex and the City (Sex and the Central, which he produced, and Sex and the Beauties). Then there are his films that cash in on the popularity for Infernal Affairs-like thrillers (Colour of the Truth, Colour of the Loyalty); and Kung Fu Mahjong, which retreads his God of Gamblers movies with Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu reprising their roles in Kung Fu Hustle. As if to milk the pair for all their comedic worth, the duo also anchor My Kung Fu Sweetheart. For Wong, imitating oneself (or others) is no crime - but straying into uncharted waters is. How about Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi, who stars in Sweetheart, but also features in Chen Kaige's The Promise? 'Pak-chi doesn't stand to lose anything,' says Wong. 'At least it gives her a lot of publicity in Europe and the US, and established her as the top actress on the mainland and in Hong Kong.' Something she probably won't be getting with My Kung Fu Sweetheart.