Two fleetingly intersecting stories—a noir comedy and a rom-com—combine for Wong Kar-wai's second most popular film after In the Mood for Love, a picture of unbridled energy and love for life that brought him worldwide recognition. Two Hong Kong police officers, going through a breakup with their girlfriends, fall in love again: 223, with a nameless blonde femme fatale, 663 with the dreamy shop-girl Faye.
Wong’s most emancipated picture, Chungking Express, was shot during a couple of months' break, taken from the exhausting editing process of the wuxia Ashes of Time (1994). Splendidly balancing between common ideas and improvisation, it finally moved away from the Hong Kong genre film clichés to shape Kar-wai’s own original style, developed in tandem with contemporary cinema’s main impressionist, cinematographer Christopher Doyle. Using incremental printing techniques to lengthen frames, Wong and Doyle stretch time like chewing gum to produce incredibly powerful imagery that is both fast and slow-ish. Already tested in Ashes of Time, this technique was finally popularized by Chungking Express, becoming a signature element of Wong’s cinema.
The contrast between the two stories unfolding at night and during the day is most evident in the scene featuring both female protagonists. As the blonde femme fatale lights a cigarette outside a toy shop, Faye is leaving it holding a huge plush Garfield. Both plotlines, however, explore the same subject (perhaps more than the rest of Wong’s films)—finding intimacy in a world reigned over by depersonalization and alienation. The sentimental police officers remain nameless and, aiming to recover from a heart-breaking drama, talk to everyday objects or pets. At once touching and ridiculous, the cops are so immersed in their emotions that they do not notice obvious things: it never occurs to the young and inexperienced 223 that a woman wears glasses and a wig as a disguise, while 663 does not notice Faye under his nose, even when she sneaks secretly into his apartment. By attaining a light tonality, Kar-wai manages to turn a serious drama into an adventurous and exciting story while also introducing one of his permanent motifs—intervention, which is set to stir up the loved ones and save them from loneliness.
The film will be screened in Cantonese with Russian subtitles.
Dir. Wong Kar-wai
Hong Kong, 1994. 102 min. 18+