Starring Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung
Directed by Wong Kar Wai
Another lazy Sunday afternoon is upon us and here in Toronto if you didn’t head up to cottage country or down to the CNE for the weekend; your options for entertainment can be limited. The best bet may just be to kick back on the couch with a movie. On today’s edition of a “Foreign Affairs” review we’ll get a little romantic with one of the definitive works of cinema from the 1990’s and made Hong Kong writer/director Wong Kar Wai a force to be reckoned with. It’s time to settle in for “Chungking Express”.
“Chungking Express” brings us the story of two love sick Hong Kong cops (Kaneshiro & Leung) both jilted by ex-lovers end up crossing paths at the Midnight Express take-out stand. The first half of this double –pronged love story deals with Cop 223 (Kaneshiro) who has broken up with his girlfriend of five years on April 1st. He purchases a tin of pineapples with an expiration date of May 1(his birthday) each day for a month. By the end of that time, he feels that he will either be rejoined with his love or that it too will have expired forever and is tempted on the eve of his birthday by a beautiful woman (Lin) whose on the lam from here bosses after a drug deal goes wrong. The second half shows Cop 663 (Leung) dealing with his breakup from his flight attendant girlfriend. He talks to his apartment furnishings until he meets a new girl at the Midnight Express take out stand that inspires him to move on with his life.
The theme of romantic longing and the difficulties of connecting with other people is a common theme in the films of Wong Kar Wai. Not necessarily the kind of film where following the plot is vital, actually if you focus on it too much you may get a little lost. With the whiplash use of photography in some of Hong Kong’s crowded streets and the vibrant psychedelic colors splashed all over the screen; cinematographer Christopher Doyle crafted a vibrant world we can get lost in much like an impressionistic painting. Very comparable to french new wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, “Chungking Express” has a certain flow that simply requires you to go along for the ride. The rides name is romance, and you have no idea where it will take you.
The acting was solid all around, especially from the two male leads. Kaneshiro & Leung were effective as lovelorn men simply looking for direction. Nobody was meant to be deep or inspirational; simply charming and this film had that in spades.
Extras on this set include a newly restored high definition digital transfer with a new DTS 5.1. soundtrack supervised by director Wong Kar Wai, audio commentary from noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns. A 1996 episode of the British TV show “Moving Pictures” featuring interviews with Wong and cinematographer Doyle, the US theatrical trailer, improved English subtitle translation and booklet featuring an essay by critic Amy Taubin.
To sum it all up, I’m going to have to paraphrase a quote from the ultimate film critic Roger Ebert: “Chungking Express” is largely a cerebral experience: You enjoy it because of what you know about film, not because of what it knows about life.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Chungking Express” is available on DVD & Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection and should be available at video stores across the city, click here for more details.
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