Chungking Express | Varied Celluloid

Chungking Express

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 17 - 2008
The Introduction
Chungking Express is one of those movies that leaves you dazzled in front of the screen when it’s over. With Chungking Express, we’re talking a great arthouse movie by acclaimed Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai (Ashes of Time, In the mood for love, Fallen Angels). And actually, it’s 2 movies in one. When I ordered the DVD I knew, this movie will be different from all other Hong Kong movies. This one will blow me away, because, like I said to a friend recently, “it’s a different style of filmmaking, the pulse is different, the attitude, the way of thinking”. That’s how Chungking Express feels like: Exotic, at different pace, beautiful.

Plot synopsis: The first part of the movie concentrates about police officer #223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who has to cope with his girlfriend with whom he just broke up. His girlfriend’s name is May and they broke up on April 1st, but he doesn’t believe it’s true, so he gives her until May 1st to come back to him – which she doesn’t. He counts the days and buys pineapple cans with May 1st expiration dates. On May 1st May doesn’t call, of course. He eats 30 cans of expired canned food, calls up many girls, and as he doesn’t get a date, he goes to a bar and starts drinking. He decides to fall in love with the first woman who walks in. Entering the bar, is a mysterious woman with a blonde wig (Brigitte Lin) and #223 tries to start a conversation with her. But that woman had a rough day chasing Indian drug smugglers all over town and she is too tired to talk. He takes her to a hotel where she falls asleep and he starts eating more. The next day (his birthday) he receives a call from her, wishing him Happy Birthday. And that’s the last he heard of her. The second part of the movie is about officer #663 (Tony Leung Chiu-wa) who is a regular at a food joint. His girlfriend flight attendant (Valerie Chow) has left him. That food joint is his hang-out place and his ex-girlfriend leaves a letter for him there. He refuses to pick it up, so the new cashier at that food joint Faye (Faye Wong) opens it, and finds the key to his apartment. While he’s working, she secretly takes care of the apartment. But he somehow realizes too late, what Faye has done to the apartment, and when he starts realizing and wants to date her, she leaves to California. She also leaves him a letter, but it gets wet and he can’t read it. When he dried it, it turned out to be a boarding pass – now useless. Exactly one year later, she returns, as a flight attendant. In the meantime he has taken over that food joint and she plans to come back for the grand reopening.


The Review
Wow. What a blast. While at the beginning the audience is left basically alone and doesn’t quite know what it’s about, at the end of the first episode, you are fascinated by it. Wong Kar-Wai tells his story in fast forward, focusing on two individuals while city life rushes by at fast pace. A mysterious woman, a hear-broken cop. Two human beings as different as it gets. A beautifully told story that suddenly stops, when the movie switches to part two. That again stuns the audience. But the second episode is even better. An almost romantic comedy telling of a weird relationship between another heartbroken cop and a bizarre little girl not satisfied with the world she lives in. Although they see each other every day, loves seems to surface only when she finds the keys to his apartment and when he finally realizes what actually happened to his home. Love with obstacles, obstacles that are itself not really ones. Wong Kar-Wai’s fantastic storytelling here is simply amazing and can hardly be described. It’s Kar-Wai’s most accessible movie (compared to in the Mood for Love for example) but it still flashes the watcher, as in you see the heart of the movie in between all the characters, images and sounds. A fantastic experience – Chungking Express might not be for everyone, but it will blow you away, I promise.

The DVD
Quentin Tarantino’s 1st Rolling Thunder Pictures release comes with a fairly good DVD. You have an anamorphic widescreen picture which isn’t what you expect from a movie that says “digitally remastered” but it’s still a fairly good improvement from any TV or VHS version you might have seen. The original Cantonese audio track comes in 2.0 sound and is a bit disappointing. Voice overs sound almost very bad, and the rest: almost zero surround sound. But overall, it’s good enough and meets the needs. Of course you can watch this with English subtitles.

On the extras side, you get an introduction by Quentin Tarantino as well as a wrap-up by Tarantino where he talks about Wong Kar Wai and other movies. Pretty interesting. You also get the original trailer and the US theatrical trailer as well as trailers to some other movies.

The Conclusion
A great movie on a DVD that is worth its money and should be part of every cineast’s DVD shelf.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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