7 months ago
What a difference a day makes.
In our lives, we encounter many different people, whether it’s on a street corner, in a hotel elevator, in the office lobby, or in the aisles of a local supermarket. Such encounters can either be brief or substantial, lasting —in many cases —more than a day. Over time, our encounters manifest themselves into abstract moments, forever trapped in the corners of our mind.
Such a topic is included in Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express (1994). A sensitive cinematic tour de force, the director meshes high-speed action with a unbounded emotion in almost soap-opera-like to bring viewers a true, powerful story of love, loss, and chance encounters told using two separate stories that fit so well in a single film. The film knows life is boring and monotonous at times and displays that reality to its fullest extent, unlike most, the picturesque view of everyday living that high-budgeted Hollywood productions tend to convey. With that said, many are of argument that there is no plot to this film, so I shall not divert my focused attention to the film’s plot in this review.
What I will focus on is the film’s groundbreaking technical features and unsophisticated performances.
Let’s begin by quickly discussing the actors and actresses featured in this film. Veteran actress Brigette Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, and Faye Wong are the main characters in this film. They all undoubtedly give some truly fine performances that make this film all the more realistic. They’re not breathtakingly elegant or have lavish outfit choices. They portray the everyday folk of Hong Kong. Walking from shop to shop, listening to music, working shifts, and eating or drinking in the nearest bar/restaurant are the main premises of their mundane lives. These characters are some of the most real you will ever see outside of a documentary.
Behind the camera is renowned Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle. The winner of numerous national cinematography awards for work in such films as Paranoid Park (2007), Hero (2002), 2046 (2004), and In the Mood for Love (2000), as well as numerous other Chinese T.V. series and motion pictures. For Chungking Express, Doyle transforms Hong Kong to a neon lighted world, whilst leaving the viewer in a state disorientation and utter displacement in one smooth dance. His input in given scenes frankly matches the moods and mind-states of the characters in the aforementioned scenes. While the second half of Chungking Express subjectively and generally doesn’t have the bright colours seen in the first half, there’s no denying that Doyle’s work is one of the many great cinematographic marvels that will long be studied and dissected.
Though the musical score found in this movie may seem quite repetitive and nonsensical to some, it is such repetitiveness that makes the viewing experience so comfortable and, in a sense, nostalgic. In other cases, the music fits the mood of scenes with such pinpoint accuracy. Simple yet so powerful.
Lastly, what is there to say about the film’s masterful director Wong Kar-wai? The man is as legendary as many of his films. He’s left cinema lovers and moviegoers alike with some of the finest films ever to be crafted in the modern era, let alone of any era. It goes without saying that the legend is one of my favorite directors of all time, especially with Chungking Express.
Simply put, Chungking Express is an achingly beautiful piece of filmmaking from one of Hong Kong’s finest auteurs that will long be treasured.