From the opening seconds of Chungking Express, we’re plunged into a frenetic world where plot gives way to an enthralling study of people and place.
Its inhabitants are a mysterious, trench coat-clad gangster (Brigitte Lin), two handsome and heartbroken cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung Chiu-wai), and a canteen attendant dreaming of California (Faye Wong).
Produced during a break from the epic period drama of Ashes of Time, Wong Kar-Wai worked guerrilla-style to make an entirely unrelated film, in under three months. In an interview he said, 'working with a very tight budget, we called ourselves CNN: just bring the camera and shoot it, no permits, no licence so everyday it’s like planning a robbery!'
This anarchic energy is infused throughout the film, from Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Christopher Doyle’s startling camerawork to the editing, which Wong Kar-Wai and William Chang did simultaneously, each taking one storyline in the film.
But for all the wildness in the production, the central performances – and especially those of Faye Wong and Tony Leung – are nothing short of pitch perfect. As they each navigate the world in their own heartsick way, it’s impossible not to fall head over heels for them both, making the final moments of Chungking Express hopelessly romantic and unforgettable.
This 4K digital restoration was undertaken from the 35mm original camera negative by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata and Jet Tone. It was supervised and approved by Wong Kar-Wai.
Notes by Kristy Matheson
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