Chungking Express – Review

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There are lots of films which we can think about them more and just the many ways in which we find ourselves connecting with them and Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express is one of those films for someone like myself. A small part of me only goes to think about how I’m not willing to let go of a memory inside of my head, whether it be that of a romantic affair or anything personal that’s just rooted inside of our head. It’s something that means so much to us, even if it’s already moved on, we still hang on. It’s something so simple we hang onto but our dedication just compels us. I’ll forewarn anyone reading, this is possibly to be a rambling of thoughts for even after a viewing, my love of Chungking Express strengthens more and more upon thoughts.

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Wong Kar-wai places so much emphasis on the simplest details of an action, for even the smallest distances say so much more. I’m not in any sort of relationship but the loneliness adds more to the awkwardness of being so close to anyone of the opposite gender, now matter how small of a distance it may be. It’s interesting how Wong Kar-wai emphasizes on these details for it adds more to just how realistic the details of isolation are and just as we watch how these details are glossed over in this manner adds up to why I find so much of it so personally affecting.

The filmmaking style is another part as to where everything is made so gripping. Most of it was done in a low shutter and there’s an aspect that gives it the feeling of watching a music video as it adds more to the energy of such a piece. This energy is best suited for a film that’s rather happy in nature, yet the content and mood adds to make something sad, hence an incredibly bittersweet result. Love is a feeling that brings happiness and sadness inside of the human soul, and in Chungking Express, it’s so perfectly captured in this manner and it couldn’t possibly be given to us any better than what we have here.

In spite of the two stories taking up different halves of Chungking Express with different characters, there’s never a feeling we’re watching another film. Where both films are connected comes right out of the thematics in regards to how their characters are isolated beings in search of satisfaction. What could have been something so basic from the plot revolving around isolation in the soul transforms into an experience about the psychology that infiltrates the mind upon a feeling that love is to spring, no matter where we are in life.

In the first story, we are watching a lovesick police officer played by Takeshi Kaneshiro, who buys a can of pineapple that expires on May 1, his own birthday – a date which should be happy for him. It is not particularly happy though, for on April 1, he broke up with his girlfriend. The moment in which May 1 has passed, 223 knows he will throw up the rotten pineapples, in a manner he wishes to let go of the destructive memories. 223 meets a mysterious woman, played by Brigitte Lin. Without realizing what she really is, he falls in love. His tenderness is a factor that ends up leading the both of them to a distinct freedom, the woman is to take care of business and 223 is to continue roaming for love.

The second story continues off from where the first story has ended, this time another cop is present and our focus is on the waitress who was suggested to 223, the lovely Faye, played by singer Faye Wong. The cop is this story is 663, played by Tony Leung, and when we are introduced to him, he wants to buy lunch for his girlfriend, who is a flight attendant. Faye is an optimistic dreamer, for at the Midnight Express she blasts “California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & the Papas, and she has also fallen in love with 663, albeit she keeps this a secret.

I’m not so sure where I can begin to describe this story because when I look at Faye, I’m not seeing any ordinary woman who’s so extroverted in spite of her own secrets and dreams. What I’m seeing, thanks to the soundtrack is a woman who just really feels so isolated in the same manner that 223 was. Suddenly, the playing of “California Dreamin'” also feels saddening. It isn’t until we hear Faye Wong’s own cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries (a cover I personally prefer to the original version) where I noticed afterwards, her own joy is really a disguise for her suffering. It just added so much more beauty to what already was a stellar performance and personal connections that are drawn towards this film soon became all the more clear.

It wasn’t until I discovered Wong Kar-wai’s films where I discovered how love could be handled in such a truthful manner on film. It’s a feeling that isolates the soul, yet we still search for it as it leads us many places. An indulgent rambling can follow along when I wish to talk about a film like this, because it wasn’t until my first viewing of Chungking Express where I discovered there was so much more truth to be put on film in this manner. Perhaps I might have lost myself once again, in a sea of thought, because my first viewing of Chungking Express resulted in many more repeats in the future, where it soon became rooted in my memory. If my memory of this film has an expiration date, I can simply say, let it be 10,000 years.


Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Jet Tone Production.


Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Screenplay by Wong Kar-wai
Produced by Chan Yi-kan
Starring Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Faye Wong
Release Year: 1994
Running Time: 98 minutes

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