Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-Wai)

Movie seems to do everything you’re not supposed to do (shoot objects instead of the people who are talking, cast a superstar actress and never show her eyes, use tons of slow-mo without speeding up the camera, drop the entire plot and start a whole new movie halfway in) but does it with such romantic style that instead of being considered a wrongheaded failure, it influenced moviemaking for the next decade. Watched in gorgeous high-def (not represented by screenshots below).

Brigitte Lin had very different roles in this (in which she barely talks and never removes her wig and shades) and Ashes of Time in her final year as a film star before retiring. She’s a secret criminal here, helping foreigners pack their bags full of hidden drugs and get fake passports out of the country, getting threatened and chased, shooting a fella… it’s hard out here for Brigitte Lin.

Takeshi Kaneshiro (of House of Flying Daggers) plays sad Cop 223 (he’s the same sad cop in Fallen Angels), who got dumped by his girlfriend a month before his birthday, and plays a game involving nearly-expired canned pineapple imagining she’ll come back. He hangs around a fast food place chatting with the owner and hoping to catch a glimpse of Brigitte Lin, with whom he becomes obsessed without ever finding out about the criminal angle. Eventually Faye Wong starts working at the food joint and the movie shifts focus.

Tony “Tony 1” Leung (currently appearing in John Woo’s Red Cliff) is Cop 663 who also frequents the food stand, though we never see him and Cop 223 in the same scene, so they may as well have been the same character. He still has a girlfriend (a flight attendant, she gets some scenes) though he soon loses her. He certainly notices Faye Wong, talks with her, but only becomes interested in her towards the end when it’s too late.

Faye Wong was only in three films in the decade between this and 2046. She keeps herself busy being a billion-selling superstar musician. Here she bounces around filling orders to “California Dreaming” until she gets unhealthily obsessed with Tony 1, intercepts the keys his ex tried to return, and starts entering his apartment every day, cleaning, playing, accidentally flooding, dancing, hiding and substituting his stuff until he finally breaks out of his brooding fog and starts to notice. Soon as he does, she disappears to California for a year, returning for a sweet final scene at the food joint.

“Where do you want to go?”
“Wherever you want to take me.”

JULY 2019: Watched again, with Katy this time, on Criterion Channel, after I had “Dreams” stuck in my head for our whole HK trip.

Related posts