Wong Kar Weekend
This weekend should be a time to champion Wong Kar Wai as the most romantic filmmaker on the planet with the scheduled release of his new film “My Blueberry Nights.” However, antsy film executives figured American would rather spend their Valentines weekend watching the next installment in the McConaughey-Hudson Rom-Com franchise. Luckily for the thinking audience, Donny Brook Writing Academy is throwing a fine substitute of an event this evening at the Meadowlark. However, I refuse to let studio boss dictate my life, so despite “My Blueberry Nights” being pushed back to April, I’ll be devoting this weekend to some essential Wong Kar Wai viewing. Particuarlly, the most romantic film ever made.
Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express is a testament to instinctual filmmaking. The film is full of inspired romantic moments and ideas that can only come from someone who defines the term “hopeless romantic.”
Full of romantic bits that if applied to real life situations would result in a restraining order, or at least a radiating a creepy vibe that would result in months of unintentional celibacy.
The film consists of two stories that could easily be classified in the “high concept” theory that was the driving force behind eighties studio tent-pole films. The first story, about a lonely cop with a pineapple fascination meets a woman who’s just lost her elegantly dressed drug mules, begins with the characters as close as they’ll ever get, 0.01 cm, and the promise that 57 hours later the cop will be in love with the woman. The story proceeds with a sometimes comic, always genuine look at the desperate things people do after being dump. The first story ends with the two characters transcending the span of physical proximity to make an emotional connection that will haunt them despite the idea they’ll never see each other again.
It’s hard not to get caught up in examining the first segment of the film with the unforgettable images and character traits, but the first segment is just a rope-a-dope set up for the romantic golden nugget of the second story. The first forty minutes of the film weaken the audience’s emotional resistance to romantic ideas that get exploited and repackaged as studio drivel. For first time viewers of Chungking Express the first story gains the trust Wong Kar Wai’s ability to treat romantic moments with cherished sensibilities. The story naturally flows from one narrator to the next. The new characters are introduced at the Midnight Express food stall.
Through small adjustments to his faithfully followed routine Officer 663 loses his stewardess girlfriend and spirals into a prolonged depression. Depression is one of least cinematic emotions which nearly always alienates a character from the audience, but Officer 663 is played by Tony Leung and written by Wong Kar Wai. Instead of losing interest in the character, the depression makes him more endearing. Faye, played by Faye Wong, is the most adorable character in film history. It’s nothing new to say it’s impossible to watch the film and not fall in love with Faye, which makes Officer 663’s depression all the more heartbreaking.
Faye is head over heels at first sight, but Officer 663 won’t notice her as anything more than an employee of the place where he gets his coffee every night. All direct contact with 663 is in vain, she can’t win for losing with face to face contact. However, through the unintentional wounding by a pin, Faye gets the key to Officer 663’s apartment, and she begins a indirect assault on his sub-conscience through calculated visits to his empty home.
In the first story, where the protagonists fall in love in the rapid pace of fifty-seven hours, the second story takes extends the time to an epic length of a year plus. Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express looks at aspects of relationships rarely seen on film in a familiar light. The film isn’t about the simple complications that keep two people apart for two and half acts before they triumphantly kiss in the last scene. Regardless of the fantastical set ups the relationship and characters are genuine. All and all Chungking Express is the greatest Romantic film of all time.