Chungking Express


One of the most involving and visually stunning films I’ve ever seen. Two different and unrelated love stories cross over in a small Hong Kong fast food restaurant where two cops regularly go. The stories have thematic similarities, but the treatment is different. The first cop (Takeshi Kaneshiro, charming in an offbeat way) was left by his girlfriend. He changes his mind by jogging and eating expired cans of pineapple. He meets a mysterious woman in a blond wig (Brigitte Lin, HK’s Garbo) who’s involved in drug smuggling, and they bond for a while. Then we switch to another police officer (Tony Leung, too hot), who was also dumped. A young woman (Faye Wong, the cutest little stalker) is in love with him and she inhabits his apartment while dreaming about California.

As you can see, there ain’t much story. It’s more about style and semi-insightful, often confused thoughts about relationships, transmitted through hypnotic narration. The filmmaking is just brilliant. There are plenty of riveting shots, courtesy of genius cinematographer Christopher Doyle, and incredible use of music from The Cranberries (covered in Cantonese by Faye Wong, who’s apparently HK’s Madonna or something), The Mamas & the Papas, Dinah Washington and Dennis Brown. It all combines to give the film a unique feel, both frenetic and contemplative, which might remind you of Godard’s early work.

It’s hard to really describe “Chungking Express”. It’s not just a movie, it’s a complete cinematographic experience, sometimes full of hard truth or whimsical and poetic, simply funny or moving in complicated ways. It was written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, a brilliant Hong Kong filmmaker who went on to win a Best Director award at Cannes in 97, for the amazing “Happy Together”. Personally, I still prefer “Chungking”, for the naive hope of its characters and for the originality of the storytelling and cinematography. I know, that’s present in pretty much all of Kar-Wai’s work, but I feel that it’s never quite as perfect as in this one.