Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)

There is a scene not long into Chungking Express where a young cop cleans a mystery woman’s shoes with his tie in a hotel bathroom while she is asleep on the bed. He then leaves without leaving a note. This moment is Chungking Express boiled down to its core; a little action, imbued with a desperate sense of needing to love and be loved. The woman returns the gesture by leaving the police officer a message wishing him happy birthday. The small things are what mean something, even if we can’t see it right away.

The movie revolves around two different stories, that of the young police officer and the mystery woman who is in some deep trouble, and a different cop in the middle of a breakup and the girl from the snack bar who decides to save him. Faye Wong as the girl in the second story is all approachable mystery and quirky energy. She has short hair, constantly listens to “California Dreaming,” and goes to the police officer’s house every day while he is not there and fixes his apartment for him, so slowly that it takes him a long time to even notice. Wong delivers a solid performance, but is too close to the modern “manic pixie dream girl” phenomenon for me to not be annoyed by the story. In 1994, it was novel, but through my jaded contemporary eyes, no thanks. (There are some other incredibly 90s moments, most memorably Wong’s wardrobe and a Chinese cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” that plays over a cleaning montage!)

The movie’s imagery was more effective than the stories to me; the photography (by Christopher Doyle) is absolutely gorgeous, and the colors are amazing. It especially looks great on the Criterion Blu-Ray, where the chase and action scenes are crisp in their blurriness. There’s certainly a lot to be said about the movie (the way mirrors and mirroring is used, for one – the interesting parallel between the second cop’s ex-girlfriend and Wong’s character, the way they almost become the same person sort of reminded me of an upbeat Bergman movie), but the images are what stuck with me most. Everything sparkles, the little details are the most important. Much like the stories themselves.

Watched January 10, movie 3 of 2010


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

  1. I’m generally annoyed by Manic Pixie Haired Dream Girls of a Quirky Nature as well, if only because I get lumped into that catagory all the time. Or something.

    But, funny, I didn’t even notice that when I saw this movie last year.

    It is def among my favourites. Not for people who need concretes though, that’s for sure.

  2. one of my favs. I reviewed this film on my blog a while ago, glad mroe people are seeing it! You did a wonderful job spotlighting it

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