1994, NR, 103 min. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai. Starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Bridget Lin Chin-Hsia, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Faye Wang.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., April 26, 1996
Almost two years after its initial release in its native Hong Kong, Wong Kar-wai's award-winning Chungking Express has finally reached American theatre screens courtesy of Quentin Tarantino, who has seen fit to make it the flagship release of his new distribution company Rolling Thunder. The second of Wong's films released in 1994, Chungking Express isn't quite as ambitious or complex as its immediate predecessor, the revisionist adventure epic Ashes of Time, but it is no less masterful or brilliantly structured, and is undoubtedly the most purely enjoyable movie Wong has made to date. A sort of quasi-anthology (have fun spotting the clever linking devices) dealing with a pair of lovelorn street cops finding romance in the most unlikely of places, Wong's film is an explosion of color, a rush of blurred motion that perfectly captures the mood and character of the fast-paced city called Hong Kong. The first segment finds a broken-hearted policeman (Takeshi Kaneshiro, who recently worked with Wong again for 1995's Fallen Angels) who, while coping with the loss of his pineapple-loving girlfriend, winds up falling in love with a charismatic but deadly drug pusher (Swordsman II's Bridget Lin Chin-hsia, sporting a fluffy blonde wig for her role). Far brighter in tone, the second half details the bizarre relationship that blossoms between a lively, fast-food counter-clerk (Cantopop superstar Faye Wang in her debut performance) and yet another police officer recovering from a failed romance (Hard-Boiled's Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who has become so starved for attention that he's created imaginary personalities for nearly everything in his apartment, from his silly-looking stuffed animals to a constantly shrinking bar of soap sitting in his sink. The performances here are irresistible, thrilling in their invention and spontaneity, as is the mind-blowing, urgent cinematography of frequent Wong collaborator Christopher Doyle, which makes the most of Hong Kong's neon-drenched streets and cramped interior spaces. Like all of Wong's films, Chungking Express is a meticulous exploration of human relationships and how they are affected by time and space -- notions which are constantly being redefined through both Wong's innovative narrative structure and visual style. Although it's possible that some viewers may find the picture paced a little too leisurely, this totally charming and uplifting movie confirms Wong Kar-wai's growing reputation as one of world cinema's most exciting stylists and should prove to be an excellent starting point for those unfamiliar with the director's work.