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Chungking Express
DVD disk
Dec 1, 2008 By: Mathew Plale
Chungking Express order
Director:
Wong Kar-wai

Actors:
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Tony Leung Chiu-wai
Faye Wong

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Told in two stories, Chungking Express observes the lonely love lives of two police officers (Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung Chiu-wai) in Hong Kong.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
One day, a few years ago in New York City, I was standing around with a group of art students when one demanded we rush to the Angelika because the new Wong Kar-wai film is showing and hes suuuchhh a genius! Imagine the look I got when I asked, Whats the movie? I didnt know anything about Wong, and I still dont, really. But I do know this: a genius hes not.

His 1994 Chungking Express is divided into two love stories, both centered on Hong Kong police officers. The first tells the story of He Qiwu aka Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), whose girlfriend left him on April Fools Day. He decides to give her another 30 days to return, using cans of pineapples that expire on May 1st as a timer. If that date arrives before she returns, their love, like the 30 cans of pineapple slices, will expire.

The second follows Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), whose flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) has left him and soon becomes the object of desire for a snack bar employee.

But neither story is altogether interesting. What is, though, is that they (except for a brief moment to bridge them) never intersect, at least not conventionally. Instead, they and the characters are connected through a few visual nods and the central locations, which the title takes its name from: the Chungking Mansion, where the female lead of Story #1 operates, and the Midnight Express, the snack bar used in both stories.

Both stories have characters that can be described, plainly, as pathetic. Cop 223, belly full of canned fruit and beer, pushes himself to fall in love with the next woman he meets, not because shes gorgeous or personable (she turns out to be a drug dealing Gloria Swenson-lookalike, played by Brigitte Lin), but because shes there.

And in the second story, snack bar employee Faye (Faye Wong, who also sings a key song in the film) breaks into Cop 663s apartment. But because she opts to tidy up over stealing his model airplanes, were supposed to think shes sweet, or some other such adjective.

Wong Kar-wai and his film have drawn comparisons to the works of French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, due to his jerky camerawork and pop culture references (that Coca-Cola machine might be more than coincidence, too), which could be why some are so eager to declare him a Genius. But a genius, on top of what he shows, has something to say. And Wong, whose Chungking Express amounts to little more than a jungle of impressionistic color and detracting camera tricks, has nothing to say.
THE EXTRAS
Audio Commentary featuring Tony Rayns: The noted Asian cinema critic, who has provided tracks on a number of Criterion releases (Ugestu, Yi Yi), is informative and well-spoken, proving to be the best choice for commentator (other than maybe Wong Kar-wai himself).

Moving Pictures Episode (12:09): Director Wong Kar-wai and cinematographer Christopher Doyle join this 1996 episode of the British television show to discuss Chungking Express, other works, and influences while taking us to a handful of locations used in the film.

U.S. Theatrical Trailer.

Also included on this Criterion Collection DVD is a 12-page booklet with an essay titled Electric Youth by Film Comment and Sight & Sound contributing editor Amy Taubin.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Chungking Express and Wong Kar-wai fans will need to pick this Criterion Collection disc up, as it's the best release of the film we're likely to get (despite the slim features), while those who haven't seen it might be eager to give it a rent.

The Blu-ray will be released on December 16th.
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