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05 September 2005

Chungking Express (1994)

Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong

Directed by Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love)

Chinese Title: Chong qing sen lin

From Hollywood Video: "Experimental comedy/drama about two star-crossed Hong Kong couples' marginally intertwining lives. Cinema buffs hankering for stylish fare [and] quirky characters will love its lighthearted, enjoyably existential take on urban alienation, romance."

My first reaction to this film was disappointment when I realized its format. Part one, so to speak, is between a very youthful Takeshi Kaneshiro (of House of Flying Daggers, dreamy sigh) and his brief encounter with Brigitte Lin's mysterious drug-runner, but about a third of the way through, their story finished. Enter Tony Leung and Faye Wong, and the remainder of the film focuses on their star-crossed romance.

I wanted more Takeshi! Oh well. He was lovely to watch, very personable and quirky, desperate and playful. But the drug-smuggler plot was too ambitious for its short-story time frame. And I know Brigitte Lin has been in a ton of movies, but her part was so terse and shady that I got no sense of her charisma or appeal. Her character, it seemed, could have been played by anyone.

So after the disappointment of seeing Takeshi's role in the film come to an end, I was left with Leung's lonely, slightly loopy cop (he talked to everything in his apartment, from his dish towel to his bar of soap, because of his isolation) and Wong's cute daydreamer. She made me smile. Everything about her reminded me of what my brother would fancy: eccentric and playful, like a Chinese Angelina Jolie in Playing by Heart.

(A brief aside: I just noticed on IMDB that Jolie gets lead credit in that film. When Keven and I originally saw it, back in 1999, she was the ONLY member of the main cast we had not heard of before. Hmmm....)

Anyway, the film was a good, quick romp. The characters were generally pretty unbelievable, in that they were so quirky and interesting. But because they were so interesting, it was a fun departure from reality. I also enjoyed the Chinese version of "Dreams" (The Cranberries), but "California Dreamin'" for the tenth time got old.

Next up for my Chinese cinema exploration is Wong Kar Wai's more recent effort, In the Mood for Love.

Blogger Mircalla said...

In the Mood for Love is a masterpiece... Be prepared to enjoy a languid and seductive film. The scenes and the '60s chinese dresses she wears are gorgeous. I hope to see the sequel (2046) soon.

Last year I saw also "Happy Together" from the same director, about the homosexual relationship of two Asian guys in Buenos Aires, but I did not enjoy it as much as In the Mood for Love.

Blogger carrie_lofty said...

I've only heard good things about ITMFL, so you echo those reviews. I'm glad - it's on hold for me at the library :)


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