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Musings about Chungking Express (1994)

Well I thought that Wong Kar Wai was pretty awesome when I watched in The Mood of Love. I said it was the Asian version of David Lean’s Brief Encounter,with an illicit affair in the 60’s. I was amazed by his genius and then all of the sudden Chungking Express just simply blow my mind away. This to me,I could see Wong Kar Wai’s genius.

So basically in a nutshell I would call it a anthological tale of two stories that is related to miscommunication or the inability to communicate in a fast-paced world. Interestingly enough Kar-Wai used this location called “Chungking Mansions” which was a melting pot of cultures like N.Y Soho or my country itself. It actually really works as it adds the atmosphere of people rushing that they could not pause the time to talk with one another. You also seen in its cinematography (which is quite cool) that the moving figures are blurred while the main character was in focus. I watched a supplement of the film and the cinematography was done guerrilla style! So it really added to the mood of the film as they could not catch with one another.

Secondly I just love the idea of canned pineapples in Takeshi’s story (Cop 233),I wonder what is the meaning behind the pineapples. So I did a little bit of research in particular the Chinese culture,interestingly the Chinese word for Pineapple means luck and wealth because of the pun (Link). In Kar-Wai’s context,it means the bitterness to me-I have very bad experiences with pineapples because of its sharp aftertaste. Perhaps he tried to convey that we cannot ease the pain after we break with that particular person. It leads to the most romantic line after Cop 233 ate lots of nearly expired canned pineapples-“If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries.” He wanted that moment to last but he could not.   It was brief as seen in Mood of Love when Mr Sheng slowly forget about his affair with his neighbour. Personally I find his story a little short for my taste but I just look at it blindly to the next story of Chungking Express.

The second story with Cop 633 (Played by the amazing Tony Leung) meeting with free-spirted Faye (Faye Wong) after the break-up with his stewardess girlfriend. Now his second motif was about California and of course at different times-Kar Wai looped that song a few times-California Dreams by The Mamas and The Papas.

Here is the yotube link to this song

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day
I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way
Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray
You know the preacher liked the cold
He knows I’m gonna stay
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day
If I didn’t tell her I could leave today
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day

This segment feels more retro-like as opposed to takeshi’s story which have lots of blues and greens. Basically this song was a man wishing for summer in cold L.A. It was suitable for this story so well as 633 yearned to get back his former girlfriend back. Interestingly Faye almost emulated his former girlfriend by raiding his and changing up his apartment by its dreamy sequence of Faye Wong’s cover of Dreams by The Cranberries

I particularly like the casting of Faye because the way she acted reminds so much of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall in that free-spirited character as Annie (Diane Keaton). It works so well as it catch the innocent air of the song itself. However as she realize that she could catch up 633’s actions,she changed to the stewardess he emulated. You could say the roles are reversed in the end and we are unsure if they are truly resolved.

Speaking about Faye….I nearly forget about the perfect casting of the female gangster (Brigette Lim),while Faye may be child-like pixie who swayed into Tony’s heart and dreams about California. The gangster (By the way she does not have a name) reminds of those film-noir femme fatales like Dietrich and Garbo. She may be indifferent and at times ambiguous like these heroines,just like 233 she was heart-broken but she did not admit openly. Even she made a sacarstic remark on fickle love-“Actually, really knowing someone doesn’t mean anything. People change. A person may like pineapple today and something else tomorrow. ” She does not even care about her feelings as we could seen in the ending scene when she shot her manager while doing an innocent act of feeding kittens.

Overall,it was quite an interesting film and it’s worth a watch. I just love the cinematography and the symbolism of this film. Kar-Wai was a pure genius here.

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2 thoughts on “Musings about Chungking Express (1994)

  1. I truly appreciate your analysis of this film. This was the first film of Wong’s that I watched and followed him ever since. He is a genius along with Hitchcock, Bergman, Satyajit Ray and Akira Kurosawa, to name a few. Have you seen Wong’s “Happy Together?” You should!

    • Thanks a lot for that nice comment! I agree that Wong Kar Wai’s films are such a genius,I started out watching Wong Kar Wai’s films with In The Mood of Love. I was blown-away by his depiction of love. I swear that when I watched Chungking Express my brain just exploded that I have much difficulty writing this review. No I didn’t,man I have just started catching up with WKW’s work.

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