Chungking Express (1994)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-07-17
Summary: Extraordinary story telling
The two stories are united by theme and setting. Both stories illustrate how difficult it is for people to form real relationships in an increasingly anomic universe and how one's memory of the past can sabotage his ability to function in the present. Much of the action takes place in Chungking Mansions, at lunchcounter that gives its name to the movie.

Brigette Lin is essentially unrecognizable in a blonde wig, sunglassses and long trench coat and still gives an electrfying performance. It might be daring, transgressive or just showing off to have her as the star of a movie and not show her eyes but her character in the first story is very powerful. She is in charge a group of Indian drug smugglers posing as tourists in Honk Kong. They decide to take the drugs and run. She has to make a number of decisions to protect herself, which she does ruthlessly and without hesitation. She is the femme fatale of film noir writ large.

If the first story is updated film nor, the second is evergreen romance. The lunch counter owner and staff are foils to both represent the audience--both they and we are watching the relationship develop between Badge 223 and the waitress Faye. And we in the audience join Faye's co-workers in hoping that these two people can somehow connect. The wacky way that Faye relates to the cop--be breaking into his apartment and re-arranging his belongings is inventive and very effective in showing how much she wants to be with Badge 223 but how diffucult it is for her to express that longing.

Christopher Doyle is a genius. He can light a scene as well as any DP working anywhere. The camera work is a tour de force of effects at the service of narrative and character. In the first story a hand-held camera follows The Woman in the Blonde Wig as she pursues the escaping drug mules through the warrens of HK, giving it a very real and immediate feel as well as a dangerous edge. There are a lot of low angle shots of Lin's character which give her a menacing and domineering air.

In the second story the principals often move in slow motion while the anonymous crowds around them rush past. Between them Wong Kar-Wai and Doyle have created a series of postcards of Hong Kong a few years before the handover.

As close to a "must see" movie as has been made in the past 15 years.
Reviewer Score: 9