Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)


Tony Leung (Cop 663), Takeshi Kaneshiro (He Zhiwu, Cop 223), Faye Wong (Faye), Brigitte Lin (Woman in blonde wig), Valerie Chow (Air hostess). Written by Wong Kar-wai. Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Rating: 12. Running time: 102 minutes.

If you insist on plots, get out of here. Chungking Express doesn’t have one in any meaningful sense and you will get frustrated. Here’s my best attempt: it’s about two Chinese policemen who (separately) interact with a handful of women. Done. For those of you left who recognise cinema is about art too, where do I begin? This is the hardest type of film to write about. It defies analysis like a lot of the French New Wave does, and indeed I’d be tempted to dub Wong Kar-wai Godard reborn in Hong Kong or something. This film is so much about style and the image for the image’s sake it’s untrue. The colour of everything is almost permanently tinted to be tangy, a kind of lime green or punk purple infiltrating nearly every still. The camera flows and swings with the action in a way I can only describe as reminiscent of some of the early perfected scenes of GoodFellas, but it’s way more rapid and hip. The characters are Almodóvaresque in their literary pretentia and exotic looks and personas. There’s no introduction and no intent of telling a story. We just enter like we’ve had a one hour briefing and wham, there’s Hong Kong looking manic and pretty damn bright and beautiful, even if we are just watching jogging, fast food and a female murderer. No moreso is it beautiful than because of the saxophone-based soundtrack that’s stupidly soothing, and the Western hits, especially California Dreamin’, that dominate the second half. I hate to call films poems, but when they get as indecipherable but nevertheless completely compelling as this, there’s no other analogy to give. Just remember how music is as much about the sound as it is about lyrical message, and try to open your mind to the fact that films can be plotless but great by virtue of their sound and image too. I have no idea why Chungking Express is so damn good, but for some reason it really is.

2 Responses to “Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)”

  1. 1 The other thirteen (Part 2) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film
  2. 2 The Social Network: revisited, reemphasised. « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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