192. Chungking Express (Hong Kong 1994)

Two Hong Kong policemen fall in love with unsuitable women.

director/screenplay Wong Kar-Wai

photography: Christopher Doyle

starring: Faye Wong, Tony Leung, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro

fact: Tarantino's favourite film

Another difficult-to-describe film. There are two distinct sections to this film; in the first, Kaneshiro falls for Lin, unaware that she is a major league heroin smuggler intent on wiping out two couriers who have escaped with her money or goods. In the second, Tony Leung (the omnipresent Jack Thompson of Hong Kong film) is pursued by, left by, and sort of reunited with chip shop worker (see 184 Spoorloos) and then air hostess Faye Wong.

Kaneshiro is love sick for a former flame and keeps her flame alive by buying a tin of pineapple chunks each day until the final expiry date of that particular batch is reached (sounds wank, doesn't it? But it's not; it's fucking great, as Alexander Walker used to say before downing another bottle of Greaty Market Rebel, le parfum de Lentheric ). 

Just as it's getting interesting, the film mutates into the Leung/Wong story which is in many ways more satisfying as a piece of film making, but is just as unsatisfying for us cretins who like Children's Film Foundation-style all encompassing dramatic resolutions.

Wong becomes infatuated with Leung and breaks into his apartment before re-arranging the furniture and leaving little tokens of love for this similarly lovelorn copper.

Tony's air-hostess ex: well worth a poke etc...

The plot's neither here nor there for either story. It's more the zest for life being portrayed (even though a major theme is loneliness a city of millions) which is of greatest importance. Wong Kar-Wai's direction is, as they say, 'playful' and delicate of touch, and he is aided throughout by the world's greatest living cameraman Christopher Doyle. Every shot in the film is imaginative and expressive, and often, it's the shot you'd least expect if you were imagining a dramatic situation.

An antidote to the terrible 'heritage'/costume/legend films such as 'Crouching Tiger'/'Hero' etc (which the director rightly despises), 'Chunking Express' is like film making rejuvenated and is redolent of Godard's Une Femme Est Une Femme or (indeed a lot of early Godard before he became overtly political and started to look like Eric Morecambe).

Best bit: Fay Wong sings The Cranberries' 'Dreams' (in Cantonese).

A fantastic film.

Don't just see it.

Buy it.