Chungking Express

Conceived of and filmed during a break in the post-production of his wuxia film Ashes of Time, Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express is one of the indelible expressions of loneliness in the cinema. Its bifurcated structure contains two stories, although one outruns the other in terms of profundity and length: both concern police officers who frequent the same fast-food stand in Hong Kong: the first (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is trying to get over a breakup with his girlfriend May, and so buys a surfeit of canned pineapples (all with the expiry date of their breakup) to house his sorrow; the second details the gradual flirtation between an officer (played by the ineffable Tony Leung) and the “California Dreamin'” girl behind the counter (Faye Wong). Her eyes perform for her—she leans forward, letting them pop, the whites showing clearly, to register interest or surprise. He is trying to be stoical and cool, except, when alone, he speaks to the inanimate things around his apartment, and projects onto them the emotional effects of his solitude. Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle unleash an arsenal of visual style, which can encompass almost all of the emotions of the text: the rush during the chases, the sensuality of lovers’ intimacy, dutch-tilted, neon-bathed isolation and more. And if the images and movements and colours are ingenious, then the pairings with the repeat needle-drops are beyond so; something which Hou Hsiao-hsien seemed to learn with reference to Three Times (2003). A lark, then, a thing dashed off in a hurry—but a whole world of feeling.

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