BLINDSPOT: CHUNGKING EXPRESS (1994)

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Am I really just to give up entirely and Wong Kar Wai? Last year I was one of the many who championed his foray into action cinema where he made drama the centerpiece with The Grandmaster and I discovered (almost like Columbus himself) the beauty that is In the Mood For Love, so where have I gone wrong?

Wong Kar Wai continues with his disjointed stories that focus on the places that people intersect in and allowing us to be enamoured by how easily the pass by one another and how wonderful it is when they decide to sit and pause and actually interact. We follow two different ‘love’ stories over the course of this film between two different police officers who have recently been left single and alone (which I believe are two not so exclusive states)  as they have fleeting evenings of love with estranged women; one being a figure in the underground and the other one who helps in her cousin’s food shop.

Somehow this movie, more than most, reminded me that Wong Kar Wai made My Blueberry Nights and made me finally decide that movie wasn’t a misstep, but rather what just happens when you let WKW make a movie. We’ve seen films about random connections before, it’s a thing that movies love to do. They give us as an audience hope for a world where all connections are infinitely possible and anything can happen at any given moment. Just like how we are made to believe in super heroes and the dominating power of love and every other happy notion that films propagate. The problem with that and this film is that we get lost pretty easily in the mix of it all.

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The film begins with a flurry of action all around us and our characters. The motions are blurred with a disembodied  narration queuing us into his thoughts on the story about to happen. The voice we’re hearing is from the future letting us know that he’s going to fall in love with this girl he’s never met and just brushed passed while the world is running at a million miles an hour around us and him. When I watch the most rote of romantic comedies and see the nature of awkwardness become the basis of all these odd ball relationships that we can barely root for most times I — for the most part — manage to move along with this idea; with WKW’s romantics though it’s hard. I don’t see these relationships — which obviously never really become real long-term things — as viable entities that I root for. Instead they end up being ‘loves’ that I barely understand how it happened at all and contradicts the notion of love. In both cases it’s basically about one party forcing themselves into the other person’s life in such a way that is against that person’s behest. Sounds very much like a romcom trapping right? I agree; but since it’s never comedic we don’t laugh away the awkward oddness of it all to help get us past the initial dumbness of what’s happening to us. Instead we sit there watching pretty much a stalker harass another person and it never endears itself to us.

There’s a conversation to be had about the fast moving world where we never truly interact anymore, and there are a lot of films out there that do it in a more interesting way. Sadly this film fails to enagage and truly intrigue in any way. Blurred crowds in a station moving constantly and Tony Leung talking to all of his furniture and stuffed animals isn’t enough to make this movie any for of interesting.

What do you think of Chungking Express?

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Author: Andrew Robinson

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  • Love this movie and pretty much everything from Wong Kar Wai (except maybe Ashes of Time). I even liked My Blueberry Nights. This is one of his best. The sad thing is that I still need to see The Grandmaster. I fail!

    • I love the Grandmaster. His romantic ideals in that movie are leaps and bounds more intelligible than this film.

      Weird part is in comparison to how he deals with relationship happenings in his film, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, this movie pales in comparison. We get more into the relations and the characters. What is it about this Dan? What is it about Chungking that makes it one of his best? What am I missing?

      • What works for me about Chungking is the mood that he sets; it’s very similar to My Blueberry Nights in that way. Despite not that much really happening, it’s just riveting for me. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it, but that’s what I recall the most.

        • I guess. As I said I kept thinking about Blueberry Nights, which is a movie I’ve soured on. I saw that movie when it was originally released and I wasn’t familiar with Wong Kar Wai then. Even then though I didn’t quite like that movie. I forgave a lot for some Scarlett Johansson and Norah Jones love I had then (and still do today), but the movie never quite impacted me. It felt like a series of random things and nothing lands.

  • This is pretty much my favorite WKW film as I just loved the images and absolutely fell in love with Faye Wong throughout the film. I’ve seen them all as I did my Auteurs piece on him in December which came out earlier this year. BTW, which version of The Grandmaster did you see as I saw both the shortened and atrocious 108-minute cut from Harvey Weinstein and the 130-minute international cut of the film which is the version I loved.

    • I’ve only seen the Chinese cut of The Grandmaster. Had a fleeting curiosity for the Weinstein cut when it hit Netflix, but that feeling past in time.

      • Ah, that’s the cut I haven’t seen but I heard it was well-received in the same line as the international version.