Chong qing sen lin

(Chungking Express, HK - 1995)

by Vanes Naldi

Cast: Faye Wong, Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Valerie Chow
Genre: Romance
Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Screenplay: Wong Kar-Wai
Cinematography: Christopher Doyle, Keung Lai Wai
Composer: Frankie Chan, Roel A. Garcia
Runtime: 102 minutes

This is not your usual Hong Kong John Woo flick with tons of action and stylish cops. This is a film about romance in the life of average people: two stories that focus on how people react to loneliness and depression.

The first part of the movie, the shorter one, focuses on a cop whose girlfriend left him. He feels lonely and depressed, but expresses himself by running rather than crying. He does this because running will drain him of "all" the fluids necessary to cry, and that will make him feel happy afterwards. He also buys pineapple cans every day, but only if they expire by May 1st. If his girlfriend wouldn't come back by that date, he'd feel their love, like the pineapples, was expired.

He suddenly decides to fall in love with the first woman who crossed the door in a bar. The girl turns out to be a heroine smuggler always running for her life. They meet each other and talk. Even if the girl isn't interested in the cop's company, they end up drunk and the cop stares at her while she's sleeping in his flat, eating and thinking about her. The day after, she's gone.

While the first part focused on the darker side of love, the second one completely counters it with a different, if not interlaced story. Another cop who lost his girlfriend meets a girl, played by Hong Kong pop sensation Faye Wong, in fast food joint. The girl seems to be really interested in American culture and dreams of going to California (we're reminded of it with several repetitions of "California Dreamin' "). She falls in love with the cop, and decides to keep a letter from his former girlfriend that was intended for him. She reads it and finds the keys to his apartment, so she starts going there every day: cleaning it, playing, and having fun until the cop would come home. The cop's pathetic attention for details doesn't allow him to notice that his house was changing. He survives his loneliness by talking with objects: a soaking towel (he asks her to not cry while the towel drips water from the extremities), a big white stuffed peluche, and a bar of soap. He doesn't even notice big changes like the peluche changing from a white bear to a big "Garfield" (he thinks he's dirty, and tells him he's becoming "yellowy" and notices the black lines behind his ears).

The cop keeps thinking about his girlfriend, that one day she'll come back, but also starts knowing the fast food girl better. They meet at an outdoor restaurant while the girl is carrying fruits from a market. Their friendship becomes more important. Obviously, one day the cop comes home and finds the girl in his house, and from there the romance begins.

Watching this movie only once doesn't make you understand it. It will look confusing and won't make much sense for you. The fact is these stories aren't told in the conventional way, and while they're smartly connected with seemingly invisible transition, there's a theme. The chaos and confusion is perfect because it shows how life is in Hong Kong. Amazing cinematography and one of the most effective soundtracks even balance the confusing plot. The use of freeze frame, blurred hand held shots, time-lapses where the cop stands while in the background hundreds of people walk by at a different speed let us learn that this movie focuses on the characters and the theme (romance and loneliness in Hong Kong) more than a plot. It's really an experience to see this creative way of filming, which adds to the movie in such an effective way. The soundtrack does what every soundtrack should do, lets us know how the characters are feeling at a certain moment.

There's also a perfect balance of Western world and Asian heritage that is the heart of the Hong Kong culture. There's an American classic like "California Dreamin'" and Faye Wong's version of Dreams. We know from the music what the feelings of the girl and cop are, and this helps engage us in their little dramas. This movie requires several viewings to fully understand its subplots and manipulations, and how beautifully the soundtrack and stunning cinematography add to the mix. I'm not sure I understand everything about it even after watching it twice. Beautiful, beautiful romantic drama.  


Gift Set DVD

Gift Set DVD


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