Chungking Express – March 3, 2010

Chungking Express
Dir.Wong Kar-Wai, 1994
102 minutes

This week we turn our attention from Rio de Janeiro to Hong Kong, and specifically to Wong Kar-Wai’s classic Chungking Express, from 1994. The film follows a pair of love stories set in contemporary Hong Kong, each involving a lonely policeman and a mysterious woman. It marks the third entry in a career that has now gained Wong international acclaim, landing him a spot on Sight & Sound’s top ten directors list and making him the first Chinese director to preside over a jury at the Cannes Film Festival. Chungking Express also highlights the relationship between director Wong and star Tony Leung, which would result not only in a number of awards for this film (in addition to Best Picture, this film garnered Hong Kong Film Awards for Wong and Leung), but a string of more recent critical successes including Happy Together, In the Mood For Love and 2046.

Wong’s film is of interest for us for many reasons, perhaps too many to note here. An abbreviated list might include Simmel’s work on life in the metropolis, as the setting of the first part of the film – the Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong, a giant melting pot in the middle of one of the world’s great melting pots – underscores Wong’s fascination with the urban as a site of exchange, contingency and interplay.  Through the camerawork (done by longtime collaborator and cinematographer Christopher Boyle) as well as the mise-en-scène, Hong Kong itself becomes a character in the film.

Additionally, we might look to Wong’s fascination with the cosmopolitan and globalization. His fluent appropriation of global culture (the object of affection for Leung’s character, played by Faye Wong, is obsessed with the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’”) not to mention the film’s international reception (its initial North American release was “presented by” Quentin Tarantino) speaks to the position that Wong’s Hong Kong occupies at the nexus of East and West.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: