Chungking Express (Hong Kong 1994)

Director/Screenplay Wong Kar-Wai

Photography: Christopher Doyle

Starring: Faye Wong, Tony Leung, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro

Fact: Tarantino's favourite film

In One Sentence:

Two Hong Kong police officers fall in love with two highly individual women.


Another difficult-to-describe film. There are two distinct sections to this film: in the first, Kaneshiro falls for Lin, unaware that she is a major league heroin smuggler intent on one out two couriers who have escaped with her money or goods; in the second, Tony Leung (the omnipresent Jack Thompson of Hong Kong film) is pursued by, left by, and sort of reunited with chip shop worker (see SV 74, Spoorloos) and then air hostess Faye Wong.

Kaneshiro is love sick for a former flame and keeps her flame alive by buying a tin of pineapple chunks each day until the final expiry date of that particular batch is reached.

Admittedly, this sounds appallingly twee, but it's really quite enchanting and beautiful. 

Just as it's getting interesting, the film mutates into the Leung/Wong story which is in many ways more satisfying as a piece of film making, but is just as unsatisfying if you're a big fan of Children's Film Foundation-style all encompassing dramatic narrative resolutions. 

Wong becomes infatuated with Leung and breaks into his apartment before re-arranging the furniture and leaving little tokens of love for this similarly lovelorn copper.

The plot's neither here nor there for either story. It's more the zest for life being portrayed (even though a major theme is loneliness a city of millions) which is of greatest importance.

Wong Kar-Wai's direction is, as they say, 'playful' and delicate of touch, and he is aided throughout by the world's greatest living cameraman Christopher Doyle. Every shot in the film is imaginative and expressive, and often, it's the shot you'd least expect if you were imagining a dramatic situation.

Chungking Express is an antidote to the terrible 'heritage' /costume/legend films such as Crouching Tiger/Hero etc (which the director rightly despises), and when I first saw this in 1994 it just evoked in me a sense of my love of film being rejuvenated* and also reminded me of Godard's Une Femme Est Une Femme or (indeed a lot of early Godard - before he became overtly political and started to look like Eric Morecambe).

Best bit: Fay Wong sings The Cranberries' Dreams (in Cantonese).

A fantastic film. (SV 2012)