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Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin, Chungking Express
August 2004 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Chungking Express

cast: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Faye Wong, Tony Leung, and Valerie Chow

director: Wong Kar-wai

100 minutes (15) 1994
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Artificial Eye DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Steven Hampton
I disliked the turgid gay-love melodrama of Happy Together, and quickly tired of the 1960s' period setting of In The Mood For Love, so imagine my surprise upon finding this earlier Wong Kar-wai film so enjoyable and refreshing. It's difficult to believe that this bittersweet romantic comedy-drama has already been around for a decade.
   On the surface, Chungking Express (aka: Chongqing senlin) tells ironically interlinked stories about two Hong Kong policemen, lovesick He Zhiwu - badge #223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and despondent Chiu Wai - badge #633 (Tony Leung). Zhiwu narrates in hindsight without reducing the amusing impact of subsequent plot advancements or voiding character development. His pursuit of mystery 'blonde' drug smuggler, Lin (Brigitte Lin wearing a wig, raincoat and big sunglasses), segues into a subtly amusing urban adventure as uniformed officer Wai becomes involved with the delightful Faye (Faye Wong). Faye works a late-shift at the Midnight Express fast-food service, where the amiable manager (Chen Jinquan), dispenses matchmaking advice to the agonisingly infatuated cops. The glamorous Valerie Chow (Future Sport, Meltdown, Phantoms) plays the chic airline stewardess who is peripheral to the main storyline, but clearly the cause of more than one broken heart. Central to the entertainment value of the film's romance and winsome comedy elements is Ms Wong, who delivers a quirky yet captivating performance as the impulsive, though inherently shy, Faye.
   The striking cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Lau Wai-keung makes use of impressionistic blurs of colour for key action shot on location, and expertly chosen freeze-frames to imbue the poignant drama with a dazzlingly chaotic sense of place, while cleverly distorting the narrative timeline. Miraculously, this film's breezy nonlinear affect is never confusing. Repetitive playback of classic US pop songs, and the knowing pastiche of themes from Blade Runner, helps cement the cultworthy reputation of Chungking Express, enhancing its variable moods of sulky isolation and almost irritating cheeriness.
   The DVD release has Dolby digital 2.0 sound in Cantonese and Mandarin, with English subtitles. The only disc extras are text biographies of Wong Kar-wai and Christopher Doyle.

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