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Chungking Express – Movie Review

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Movie: Chungking Express

Original Title: Chung Hing sam lam

Releasing Year: 1994

Directors: Kar-Wai Wong

Writer/Screenplay: Kar-Wai-Wong

Country of Origin: Hong Kong (China)

Running Time: 102 minutes

Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, English, Japanese, Hindi

Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance

 

Chungking Express Movie Review

I had a mixed bunch of feelings after seeing this film. I had seen Wong Kar-wai’s In mood for love which is a visual stunner with a very impressive background score. Chungking Express is less about the story or content and more about the visual style of depiction blended with different music scores. The movie features a lot of 80s pop, romantic jazz (saxophone playing in a couple of scenes is awesome in creating a seductive feel), Bhangra, Indian classical. Also Fayes’s (Faye Wong) addiction to the song ‘California Dreams’ by Papas and mama’s and the Cantonese rendition of a popular song by ‘Cranberries’.

Chungking Express Story-line

In terms of content the movie talks about love, hope and loneliness. The movie is in two parts, both of which are love stories-the first one is more grim and the second one has a comic sense. Both stories involve a cop, in and out of love.

In the first story a young guy, Cop 663 (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) has had a break up and is looking for another woman to come into his life. His meditation on the fact that ‘everything in life comes with an expiry date, even love and relationships’, is kind of okay. The portrayal of the city life with all the hustle bustle and busy criminal world is lovely. The streets are filled with people and neon lights, a typical feel of urbanization. Here the visual style blended with a tapestry of musical scores, bringing out the existence of multi-ethnic city life is almost dizzying…at times intoxicating! I liked the way the film talks about our sometimes ‘bizarre’ existence in a city where millions live. We are nothing more than a product with an expiry date.

I could also very well relate to the desperation that comes out of loneliness, sometimes finding it difficult to find a person you can talk to. I liked the scenes in the second story where the Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), in bout of loneliness keeps talking to the soft toys. I have rarely seen men communicating with a soft toy. Many say it makes men look sissy. I disagree. The cop here looks more humane trying to overcome his adversity. The scenes where this cop talks to a torn mop, as if it were a human, brings out anxiety, desperation and sense of urgency to the whole situation.

Faye Wong’s portrayal of a free spirited, fun loving girl is particularly impressive. Her big eyes are so expressive, filled with hope and freshness. I love the scene where she finds a long strand of hair on the cop’s bed and cries bitterly like a child. Its too funny!

My Verdict of Chungking Express

The movie beautifully expresses the fetish of the east for the western culture. Here western culture seems to be an escapade, a promised land that can take away all your worries!

Personally for me the treatment of the movie is nice and with a fine balance between the more serious plot of the first story and a refreshing, comic look of the second story. But I still feel the movie is a lot of stylization and treatment without any concrete content.

Chungking Express Trivia:

  • Quentin Tarantino, after watching Chungking Express said, “I started crying. I’m just so happy to love a movie this much.”
  • The directed Wong Kar-Wai-Wong is hailed by many as the new Godard!

Reviewed By: Pallavi Patil