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Chungking Express
Posted to Movies at 04:29 PM on May 4, 2005

1994. Jet Tone Productions. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Tony Leung, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Bridgette Lin

The very best part of this DVD may be the introduction and wrap-up segments featuring Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is a huge film fan. Listening to him talk about movies is a treat unto itself. If you have never seen Chungking Express and love it, you will immediately jump up right after the movie ends and add about thirty movies to your Netflix queue, if you have one. That's how much enthusiasm he radiates.

This is a really good movie, though, without Quentin. The story follows two Hong Kong police officers (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung). Takeshi has had a wild affair with a flight attendant. She breaks it off and he gives himself thirty days to get over her. In the meantime, he encounters a mysterious drug smuggler in a Bette Davis wig. There's a lot going on in this guy's story and some of it is not exactly clear. You're left with several questions as we're introduced to Cop 633 (Tony Leung).

We never learn 633's real name, but he is one of the most endearing and memorable characters I've seen. He addresses inanimate objects at length and has a great way with words. He is the love object of a quirky pixie, Faye. (Faye Wong, who, as Tarantino explains, is like the Hong Kong Madonna). Faye is shy and awkward and instead of getting to know 633 in the typical fashion, she breaks into his apartment and cleans. Wong and Leung have a great chemistry.

Chungking was shot in 23 days while director Wong Kar-Wai was taking a break from filming his martial arts epic Ashes of Time. As a result, it has a wonderful quick pace. I guess you could describe it as "economical": there's a lot crammed in there and it's done very efficiently. You really get to know about the characters even though very little is said. What sticks in my head the most are little images that give subtle hints about the characters' personalities.

What's best about it, though, is that it's so romantic, but bittersweet and thoughtful at the same time. Wong evokes the hopefulness and sorrow of romantic love with really beautiful camera work. Hollywood romantic comedies can very rarely be described as subtle or complex, and this one is both.


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