| Chungking Express



Chungking Express

Chungking Express

Chong qing sen lin

Wong Kar-wai

Hong Kong, 1994


Review by Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 21 January 2005

Source Miramax DVD

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Chungking Express’ frantic opening minutes resemble a collection of sequential still images photographed with a slow shutter. The action is indistinct, but seems urgent: we can hear running footsteps, and they occasionally synchronize with feet on the screen. The scene approximates a chase between a policeman and thief, told in broad flourishes of color and sparse glimpses of a recognizable human feature. Orientation is the price of Chungking Express’ many visual tactics (there is also ample jump cutting; the film bears a debt to Godardian cinematography), but often the story is not as involved as the manner in which it is told.

The film is ostensibly about a pair of mildly romantic interludes. In the first, a superstitious policeman bumps into a woman with sunglasses, bright red lips, and a teased blonde wig: “57 hours later,” he states in voiceover, “I fell in love with this woman.” Prior to their encounter (which the viewer anticipates) he eats cans of pineapples, each with the same expiration date. The gesture intends to sustain—or preserve—the chance of him and his ex-girlfriend rekindling. Such desire is exhibited in vicarious instances in film, but in few, surely, as original as in cans of pineapples.

In its second half the film shifts entirely, now predisposed with a precarious diner clerk, who is obsessed with “California Dreamin,” and the crush she inherits for a frequent customer. This scenario provides another of the film’s many unusually romantic gestures: she steals a key to his apartment. She goes through his CDs and clothes, and then devotes entire afternoons to making it over.

Neither of these relationships becomes intimate, but each evolves sporadically. Likewise does the film, which, although decidedly meandering and somewhat inconclusive, is also completely unpredictable.

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