Chungking Express ★★★★★

Words fail to describe the magic with which Wong Kar-wai touches viewers through Chungking Express. The movie exists in a sort of fantasy dream world, where everything from scarfing down expired pineapple to breaking-and-entering is imbued with an unconditional aura of romantic longing. It's the kind of feeling you really can't describe, but by the 67th time you hear, "ALL THE LEAVES ARE BROOOOOWN," you have no choice but to either pack it in or surrender to Wong's ethereal grip. Your mileage may vary, but I can't get enough of it!

No one in Chungking Express acts like a normal human being, and that's okay. In fact, the film is all the better for it, as Wong Kar-wai manages to balance absurdity with genuine heartache in ways that only a genius like himself could. The whole “rockstar,” off-the-cuff filming style is 100% intuitive, and to think that any mere mortal could conjure up any ideas that led to this masterpiece without years and years of forethought is astounding. But Wong is no mere mortal. For God's sake, he wrote the entire second storyline IN A DAY!

Part of what keeps the sentimentalism from reaching schmaltzy levels are the earnest characters stemming from engaged performances. Faye Wong is an absolute treasure, bringing every ounce of adorable magnetism to her eponymous character. Every one of her startled reactions is charming, and her casual, shoulder-swaying dance moves are hypnotic without ever veering into sexualization. Wong Kar-wai-regular Tony Leung is assuredly captivating as well, as his playful chemistry with Faye makes for perhaps the most gripping "will they/won't they" scenario ever found in a film this innocent. (It also plays into my theory that Tony Leung simply oozes sexual tension with literally everyone on planet Earth, which isn't an unreasonable theory.) All this culminates in an ending that surely ranks up there among the best film endings of all time, point blank, PERIOD!

The second storyline is getting the lion's share of praise here, since it comes last to stick with you for days, weeks, and months on end. But the first storyline with Takeshi Kaneshiro and Brigitte Lin is almost as investing. Lin's look is iconic, matched by her measured yet loose demeanour, while Kaneshiro really sells some of the soul-crushing lines he has to deliver; starting out as cheesy platitudes ("They say dog is man's best friend...") before climaxing into these gut-piercing statements ("...then why won't mine share in my grief?").

Together, these two halves form one of the most singular cinematic experiences I've ever seen, made possible only by one of the true visionary hopeless romantics. Chungking Express will (and has) understandably turn off some people. It's messy, impulsive and passionate almost to a fault... but I wouldn't have it any other way.


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