WARNING: SMALL SPOILERS MAY BE GIVEN BELOW
Today being a lazy Sunday, I finally got around to watching Chungking Express. This film is something which has always been on my lengthy cinema bucket list.I am joyous that I took the the time viewing into this film as it was both uplifting and meditative amongst the chaos.
The film's plot revolves around two separate narratives regarding two policemen working within Chungking,both of whom have gone through recent break ups. Their stories are told sequentially and are both running in chagrin until they encounter a new woman.
For the first story, we become acquainted with He Qiwu, a man who pines over his most recent relationship with a girl called May. Whilst the May of which his relationship recently ended with has no screen time, there is plenty of monologue spoken from He Qiwu and interaction with other characters regarding her that as an audience we can feel his pain. (I mean, who hasn't been there before?) He Qiwu goes on the rebound and seeks out a girl after much self pity. It is at bar that he encounters a certain femme fatale.
The femme fatale is not issued a name in this story segment however it just adds to the sense of mystery she aesthetically displays by the "costume" of which she wears: A Blonde Wig and Glasses. It becomes quickly evident within the first fifteen minutes of the film that she is a dangerous presence as we see her organizes an illegal drug smuggling operation.
When He Qiwu and the woman with the blonde wig cross paths, it is not because he is after her. It is because he found himself out at a bar on the prowl and as we as viewers are sure of, the ineluctability of them meeting together is certain. They are not united together as lovers, however there is a slither of hope given to He Qiwu after their encounter and in his current position, a morale booster.
In the second story, the unnamed Cop 663 is going through the motions post break up with an air stewardess. We see that the stewardess had decided to visit a snack counter which he frequents and gave a letter to the owner regarding her wishes to break up and keys to the apartment.
This is all caught by the exuberant Faye, a worker at the counter. As Cop 663 does not wish to look at the envelope being fully aware of what the letter will detail, Faye falls him for and uses the keys to start rearranging the house while he is at his day-shift unaware. From there, the story builds around the meetings between of both Faye and Cop 663.
Throughout both stories there are reoccurring motifs that we take in such as expiry dates, the name of May, a model airplane, California Dreamin' by The Mamas & Papas, a Garfield stuffed toy and more which have been omitted from this review. The symbolism behind these help build the strength of both stories and also slightly relate them.
The setting of Chungking is a multicultural place and in being so it is interesting to hear dialog hear dialog in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Indian throughout the film.
It is hard for the setting to not draw you in. However, despite the streets being as flooded with populace as they are, we are left with the contrast of the characters usually being in isolated locations. Taciturn and with a running self monologue.
The soundtrack should be a key player in any film watched and in The Chungking Express it is not something which is not to be ignored. Most notably the soundtrack is dominated by California Dreamin' during the second half of the movie. The highlight song for me personally is a delightful Cantonese cover version of the song "Dreams" originally performed by the Cranberries sung by no other than Faye Wong, main actress of the second segment.
In regards to the cinematography, it is hard to believe that shots being taken are not being done so under natural lighting. In a scene where the Indians are assembling clothes and toys, we get various cutaway shots and amazing editing. (In particular one shot of shoes filled with cocaine/heroin being put away is shot upside down which for unknown reasons I really love) The editing is quick and fast paced, rarely lingering.
Through the use of shaky held hand camera during chase scenes and the busy streets we feel disorientated and just as lost as the characters on screen.
I believe this film is an equally a comfort to those in love as to those who are out of love. Don't give up.