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Every day we interact with people. Within the course of 24 hours we can influence someone's life (for better or worse) so deeply that they will never forget us. Is it possible that the next person you fall in love with could be a notorious heroin smuggler or the counter girl at the express luncheonette counter? Wong Kar-Wai, the writer/director of Chungking Express seems to think so. The film is broken into two tales. The first story is mainly about the sadder side of love. Love comes and brings us light and joy, but it also goes and leaves us feeling empty and needing fulfillment. The two main characters in this half of the film, a police officer played dolefully by Takeshi Kaneshiro, and a heroin smuggler played icily by Bridgitte Lin, interact for only ten percent of the story, but their meeting leaves them both with memories that will last life time. The story ends on a high note that shows us that a simple act of kindness can bring the most unreceptive people to appreciate the beauty hidden in life. The second (and far stronger) story centers around two people and their interaction at a fast food counter in the Kwaloon section of Hong Kong. Tony Leung plays the part of a rejected lover perfectly and gives of the air of being sad without ever really being pathetic. Faye Wang's quirky portrayal of the free-spirited counter girl who helps Leung forget about his ex-girlfriend, is exactly what the film needed to counter-balance its darker first half. These characters and their bizarre relationship illustrates that love can manifest itself in any number of ways, many of them unconventional. The mechanism that allows these seemingly disjointed stories together is the camera work. Wong Kar-Wai uses a decidedly unique filming technique for much of the first half of the film; a blurry hand-held technique (think Blaire Witch on drugs) used during the chase scenes. The recurring style in the second half is a time-lapse type shot with people around the main subjects moving very fast and the subjects themselves moving in slow motion (a really cool effect). The camera styles add a common surreal element to each of the stories, while still keeping them somewhat independent. Perhaps the most striking element of the film is the interconnectedness of the characters and situations. There are many establishing shots showing characters inhabiting the same places at different times, and even the same places at the same times without noticing each other. This style of filming can alter the viewer's perception of reality, daring us to believe that we are all extras in somebody else's movie.
I love this film. There, that is as simple as I can make it out. I am not going to go into any details about the plot (some people have accused it of not having one)or what takes place in the film, just want to say that this is the real deal. A film about love that is mired in reality (though shot through the lens of alcehmist - truly a visual experience to be savoured)though not gritty reality, just every day boring life and love, the sort of love we go through each day ourselves, the kinda incomplete love where two people touch each other briefly and spend more time dreaming of what could be rather than it actually taking place. A film that is romantic in all the right places, in all the right ways (believe me it will make you smile not reach for the sick bucket - Hollywood take note)and has a deft light comic touch that leaves you smiling in recognition at the heartbreak rather than crying over it. The acting and script are both first rate - tony leung can do no wrong in my book - and overall it leaves you hungry for more little gems like this. (Either that or wishing you were in love...)
Awesome. Amazing film; the second half of which far outweighs the first. Beautiful. Wong Kar Wai's film fills you with the kind of warmth that only Amelie can bestow. Fast-paced but with incredible cinematography and soundtrack. Well worth checking out; if only to say you've seen one of Quentin Tarrantino's favourite films. It's this type of film that puts others to shame. This is how a film should be; exhilarating, exciting and beautiful to-boot. The stories are told with such depth that you can't help but pick out new things every time you view it. A film like this is one that never gets boring; no matter how many times you've seen it. (I'm on my 8th)
Flawless tale of brief encounters and abstract moments. Far superior than most of Hong Kong's bullet ridden action fests, Chungking Express takes you on an emotional journey of love, loss, and chance excursions. Cinematography and editing is groundbreaking as this drama unfolds soap-opera-like stories without all the overacting and melodrama. Wong Kar-Wei has sealed his place in cinematic history with this tour de force.
Wong Kar Wai triumphs stylistically in Chungking Express, a beautiful movie that places two fingers right on the throbbing pulse of what it means to be lovesick. Some viewers will not appreciate the director's decision to fracture the narrative into two distinct stories, but multiple viewings should cure any doubts. Hypnotic editing and camerawork capture a mood and tone that is equal parts Blade Runner and Breathless, and the principal performers are all delightful to watch. Memorable use of music additionally adds to the film's strength, along with a number of unique vignettes and quirks of character (think expired canned pineapple, a toy airplane and new additions to a fish tank, for example) that take unsuspecting audiences by surprise.
Masterful Hong Kong film-maker Wong Kar Wai understands that love is about the unspoken moments between people, the hidden gestures betraying loneliness. Chungking Express is a unique expression of such notions of love. The film doesn't pretend that love is all-embracing and constant, in the way so many predictable films would suggest. Love, for the protagonists of this film, comes and goes between subtle glances - always elusive. Indeed if a level of contentment can be reached at all for these characters - it is a fleeting moment, a memory of a song, the way that somebody smells. There are so many essential moments in this film - when Dinah Washington's 'What a difference a day makes' plays over two lovers cavorting, the moments when characters talk to inanimate objects to overcome their loss of love, the brief glances between the second policeman and the waitress across the counter of the fast-food restaurant. It has been dismissed as an exercise in style over substance by many, mainly due to the hypnotic way in which the film is shot and the lack of a real story as such. I don't feel the need to defend it from these accusations because the beauty of the film is there on the screen and nothing I have said or could say could really do it justice. It breaks my heart every time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Wong Kar-Wai quickly established himself among art house
cinema circles worldwide as a new voice in Asian film with this
unconventional set of tales about modern love in Hong Kong.
Before then, he and other Hong Kong directors had stuck mostly with 'kung fu' flicks, using the formulas popularized by Bruce Lee with young audiences worldwide. 'Chungking Express' took a new direction, sweeping the 1995 Hong Kong Film Academy awards and gaining attention at other festivals in Europe and the USA.
The first of the two tales portrays a policeman and his thwarted infatuation with a mysterious femme fatale. It mostly rambles inconclusively but introduces us to exuberant, flashing Hong Kong as the setting for the second and much more satisfying love story.
Another police officer orders the same meal every day in his lunch break at a little coffee shop, 'Chungking Express.' His quiet, somber manner attracts the attention of the pretty, energetic, but lonely waitress. Then an airline hostess comes to the café and gives her an envelope for him. She peeks inside to see a farewell note and returned keys to his apartment.
The waitress proceeds on an outrageously funny quest to become part of his life. She reseals the envelope and returns only the note to him. After learning his address, she goes to his apartment when she knows he's at work and proceeds to use the keys to come in and make herself at home .cleaning and re-arranging .when he's not around. He's so depressed from his breakup that he takes little notice of the changes in his place.
Then, one day, he unexpectedly comes back home and opens the door. They are equally startled to face each other.
'What are you doing here?', she demands.
'What do you mean I live here!!'
'Now you shout and scare me so much I can't move my leg,' she complains. 'Help me to the couch .oh, oh, it hurts!! .'
This zany exchange introduces us to a delightful love story. Faye Wong as the waitress ('Faye') has a special charm, bringing Audrey Hepburn to mind. Faye is feisty, mischievous, moody......and completely irresistible. The policeman ('Badge 223') is her perfect counterpart, steadfast and honorable but badly needing someone like her for energy and affection.
After many twists and some setbacks, they find each other. At the end, we have high hopes for their happiness, even in the crowded, lonely city of Hong Kong with all its insecurities and uncertainties.
Stunned. Chungking Express should be seen at least once for the experience.
Caution: may cause smiling and frequent laughter.
What a contrast to Fallen Angels which was the first Wong Kar Wai film I've seen. Talk about polar opposites. The characters here are your everyday working people living ordinary lives. I love the idea of the people we walk and pass by everyday. Who knows what a random meeting will lead to? The chemistry between the actors is key. Takeshi Kaneshiro (I never thought of jogging that way) and Tony Leung are both great as two fellows going through a down of sorts. No one wants to be alone. Or have you ever thought to yourself and asked, "What do I want in life? Where do I want to go?" If anyone can relate to that, Wong Kar Wai captures that in his film.
Also, I love the contrast between the leading ladies; Brigitte is mysterious as the enigmatic blone and she still shines through. On the other hand, Faye's charismatic, bouncy personality is so infectious and definitely made her my favorite. It all comes out through her facial expressions, her dancing, her bright eyed look and super smile is awesome! My mindset is fixed with that song by the Mama and the Papas and Faye. That and her Cranberries' tribute. When she and Tony are onscreen together, it's magic. My favorite thing about Tony is for all the different roles he's played, he always comes off as himself. I'm sure the ladies love his scenes in the apartment!
I wouldn't consider this a great Hong Kong movie. This is a great film PERIOD. Chungking Express has replay value and there's so much more to love and appreciate upon later viewings. Definitely see it for Faye!
Giving an 11 would be more fair to this masterpiece. Trying to get
satisfied with 10 points breaks my heart as much as the stories in the
film did which are based on two men suffering from love, like the other
millions on the planet. The main difference between this one and other
romance films is Chong qing sen ling doesn't picture eternal love,
people holding hands in hands, kissing or crying and moaning in pain
when it's is over. It's more about lead characters just trying to get
over the pain and discovering that undying love was never that strong
indeed. Talking about getting over the pain, since it's a Kar Wai Wong
nobody will dare thinking a typical work.
At the first time i watched Chong qing sen ling, what hit me was director's original style in telling his stories, how he could make me feel exactly the same mood with the characters and still no tears in the whole movie. (Besides who needs tears while you can get rid of them by making some sports?) In fact if you are terribly under the influence of this film and you are dumbed by your lover too, don't be surprised when you find yourself drinking five or ten glasses of water in a row or something equally stupid as that. Because stupidity is what we are expected to do when messed with love anyway. Before, through or after the relation, it really doesn't matter, does it?
After you watch Chong qing sen ling you won't be the person you used to be. At least California Dreaming will have a special place in your heart, i guarantee that!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Chungking Express is a film about time and coincidence... a
continuation of the themes and images developed in the director's first
masterpiece, Days Of Being Wild, and a precursor to the ideas and
cinematic ideologies that will carry through to his greatest films, In
The Mood For Love, and 2046. Unlike those two projects, which seem
completely internal in the way in which they blur the emotional
points-of-view of their characters - by slipping between the various
narrative layers - the basic set-up here is simple... two Hong Kong
cops, consumed by melancholic romanticism, wander through a
labyrinthine city like Ghosts, haunted by their individual, though
ultimately quite similar memories of lost love. Their paths cross on
two separate occasions, but never intervene. Instead, the two stories
are presented separately, one after the other, with each story
presenting various echoes of a theme that ripples throughout.
The style of the film is very much indebted to the style of the French New Wave of the early 1960's, with Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle making great use of the available lighting and mobile, hand-held cameras, to capture the action in a very fast, very kinetic kind of style. Thus, those only familiar with Wong's more recent films (which benefit from larger budgets and longer periods of production) might be surprised at how ramshackle and idiosyncratic this earlier work is... with Wong pretty much devising the whole film during a break in post-production on his epic historical piece, Ashes of Time, and apparently writing most of the scenes in the afternoons, then hitting the streets to film them that same night. As a result, the film moves at a breakneck pace and never once pauses to analyse it's inaccuracies or indeed, inconsistencies, which, at the end of the day, isn't really a problem... instead, like Godard, it's all part of the film's charm.
The first story of the two is probably the most exciting... tipping it's hat to Godard's À bout de soufflé and Cassavetes's Gloria, with it's story of a lovesick cop trying to come to terms with a recent break-up, whilst simultaneously falling in love with a heartless hit-woman. Like most of the film, but more so than the second story, this segment never stops to take a breath, instead, we are continually propelled into the dingy underworld of the Chungking Mansions, with Wong and Doyle's camera (all hand-held intimacy and stroboscopic distortion) bobbing and weaving through crowds of people; snaking it's way around a labyrinth of market places, airport terminals and back street bars; and offering up a never-ending kaleidoscope of colours, speeds, movements, actions, and bursts of garish violence. The story hinges around a chance meeting - the use of the clock is an important visual reference point and the central character's obsession with tinned pineapples with an expiration date of May 1st - though it's easy to miss this within the melange of action, violence, and moody noir.
The second segment still has a fairly fast pace, but seems more relaxed and intimate in comparison to the first, with that great theme of Wong's - unrequited love - being established in the bizarre (though utterly charming) relationship between a recently heart-broken cop and the counter girl and the local Midnight Express take-away. This segment is much more playful than the first, with a nice integration of character, and a lighter tone, which is perhaps why most people consider it the most memorable segment of the two. For me, there are enough similarities and stark coincidences linking the two segments to make them work, with Wong as a director showing us his ability to switch from something as claustrophobic and action-packed as segment one, to the relaxed, charming, almost-comedic tone of the second. There's still the Godardian influence, only here it's more Une Femme Est Une Femme than À bout de soufflé, whilst the use of music (trading the cool European synthesisers and multi-cultural mish-mash of sounds, in favour of the bouncing pop of the Mammas and the Pappas and a Cantonese cover of the Cranberries song, Dreams) helps to make the whole thing that little bit more enjoyable.
Overall, Chungking Express is a likable, frantic and somewhat off-the-wall (though I hate to use that expression) combination of noir-references, new-wave romance, and an experiment into the way that cinematic narrative can be developed... all captured with beautiful, stylistic flair by Kar-Wai and Chris Doyle. The performances from the four main leads are all exceptional, with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung-Chiu Wai essaying the two love-struck cops, while Cantonese pop-star Faye Wong and the beautiful, bewigged, Brigitte Lin, portray the respective objects of their affections. Like the film it's self, the characters all have a charm and individuality about them, hinting at a deeper character with depth and back-story, even if we don't necessarily get to see the whole picture. Again, this is another trademark of Wong's... as the film really amounts to an accumulation of scenes, characters and moments that can be picked-over by the viewer and discussed until some greater sense of meaning becomes clear.
The ending of the film refuses to pander to the conventions of traditional Hollywood film-making and is all the better for it, with Wong instead further illustrating his theme of coincidence and dislocation - with the allusion to California, replayed by a character sitting in a bar called California - really highlighting the central notion of two entities existing at the same time, without any kind of awareness. Certainly, with its brisk-pace, seesawing plot and likable characters, this could be called the most accessible Wong Kar-Wai film - perhaps the best place to start for those new to his work - but of course, beneath all the new-wave references and self-consciously chic scenarios, this is still a pretty deep film about the nature of time, regret, memory, love, loneliness and, of course, the need to belong.
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