Source: Time, March 11, 1996 v147 n11 p68(1)
Title: Chungking Express._(movie reviews) Author: Richard Corliss
WONG KAR-WAI IS THE world's finest unknown auteur. Unknown, that is, to
U.S. audiences. In Asia and Europe the 37-year-old Hong Kong writer-director is
either a box-office sensation or a cult hero. Now that Quentin Tarantino's
distribution company is releasing Wong's cool-jazzy 1994 romantic comedy
Chungking Express, we get to catch up.
The plot: two stories, set in a
late-night, neon Hong Kong. Or, actually, the same story, told in two
variations: a cop thinks he's in love with one woman, then is drawn to another
more mysterious one.
The first episode is the old tale of the innocent
policeman and the blond killer. She (Brigitte Lin) sells heroin to some sharks
from India; he (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is moony about a girl who left him "because
I've become more and more unlike Bruce Willis." But he can't let go. His girl
liked pineapples, so each day he buys a can that expires at the end of the
month, then eats all 30 in a binge of self-pity. By the time he runs into the
blond, her drug deal has gone sour. Does he catch her, or even catch on to her?
No: he takes off her shoes as she sleeps, and later she leaves him a message
wishing him happy birthday. That's enough for a rapturous moment of modernist
romance. He'll hold on to that memory forever. "And if it must have an
expiration date," he says, "I hope it'll be 10,000 years."
(Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) has an affair with a stewardess he first seduced at 30,000
ft. But when she leaves, he goes amiably nuts, brushing the fur of his stuffed
animals, talking to a bar of soap ("You've lost a lot of weight--you need more
self-confidence!"). He's just the lost soul for a fast-food cook (punk pixie
Faye Wang) who sneaks into his flat each day for some erotomaniacal
housecleaning. It's a match made in Hong Kong heaven.
enough wit and pace to keep any mall crowd entertained. But it's the cinema
verve of Wong's five films to date that makes them wholly his, whether he's
doing gangster films (As Tears Go By, Fallen Angels), young-rebel dramas (Days
of Being Wild) or kung-fu sagas (Ashes of Time, a film so beautifully bizarre it
might be the first Martian-arts movie). The elements of his visual style:
nightscapes (bars, beds, jukeboxes); sulky boys in white shirts; anomie
punctuated by awful violence; murky lighting, as if scenes had been shot
underwater and daubed with squid ink; and--Wong's trademark trope--pixilated
slow motion that gives every fight end-of-the-world import and makes even the
moping of a fast-food girl look majestic.
Wong made Chungking in just 23
days, and the film's mad-dash energy is nicely reflected in his quartet of
stars. Wong, himself a star of cinema's future, has already shown that he
possesses a uniquely '90s voice, eye and spirit. You'll simply have to get to
know his work. And Chungking Express--fast, smart, irresistible--is a great
place to start.