Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chunking Express

Wong Kar-wai's 1994 film Chunking Express is an odd movie to look at 21 years later. Obviously influenced heavily by the French New Wave films of the 50's and 60's, it feels now very much a product of the 90's. Kar-wai's use of a kind of stop motion action photography that is something you'd see in a cheap Lifetime movie as a flashback tool or something, makes the movie feels painfully dated. It's a relief when we're brought back to our normal 24 frames per second. The movie is split into two parts, both about a local Hong Kong cop dealing with the breakup of a relationship, trying to move forward, or maybe being pushed forward. I like the second more than the first, but both are engaging and interesting.

The first story shows Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) feeling heartbroken over his girlfriend leaving him on April Fool's Day. He gives her 30 days to come back, until May 1st, his birthday. He eventually meets a drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin) who helps him, perhaps unintentionally, move on. The second story stars a cop only known by his badge number, 663 (Tony Leung), and his moving on from a breakup with the (unknown to him) help from Faye (Faye Wong). Faye tries to give him a letter from his previous girlfriend, presumably detailing why she left, but more importantly, returning her set of keys to his apartment. Faye takes the keys and begins breaking into his apartment to help clean up, get away from her work by saying she's out paying bills, and generally just kinda let loose to sometimes touching and often hilarious results.

Chunking Express was a huge hit upon its release, and has a reputation now as one of the best movies of the 90's. In 2002, Sight and Sound magazine named it the 8th best movie of the previous 25 years. Although I liked it, I wouldn't say it was that good. It was sweet, always engaging, stylishly filmed, but ultimately I don't know that it made much of an impact on me. Perhaps that's seeing it removed from the time it came out, perhaps not. I'm very glad I saw it, I particularly like the ending. It was my first movie from Wong Kar-wai, as it's a good movie. I have his possibly even more acclaimed 2000 film In the Mood for Love up soon, so it'll be interesting to see if that one connects to me more, less, the same. I love exploring the catalogs of new (to me) filmmakers.

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