Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)

Hong Kong

Overwhelmed by a turgid, gargantuan costume soap opera he'd been commissioned to direct, Wong Kar-wai decided to take a break and in his down-time came up with this Godard-inflected breath of fresh gorgeousness.

It has two strands: one where a young, lonely and very pretty policeman grows infatuated with a shady drug-dealing femme fatale with a funny wig; and another one where a fast-food waitress, played by the entrancing Faye Wong in her big-screen debut, grows infatuated with a second young, lonely and very pretty cop, Tony Leung (before his international exposure). The connection between the two strands is in feeling more than narrative. The first tale is fresh, lovely and very seductive as it sets up the loose, gaudy visual style and the shivery, jump-cut-happy dynamic. But it's the second chapter that packs most of the film's resonance as it reaches its achingly, intoxicatingly romantic finale and shifts the focus from hazy, unfulfilled, vaguely longing ciphers onto breathing, burning, intensely huggable people.

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