(detailed information about this entry from Wikipedia)
Chungking Express (Traditional Chinese: 重慶森林; Simplified Chinese: 重庆森林; pinyin: Chóngqìng Sēnlín; literally "Chongqing forest") is a 1994 Hong Kong movie written and directed by Wong Kar-wai, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung and Faye Wong. The Chinese title translates to "Chungking Forest", referring to the metaphoric concrete jungle of the city, as well as to Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui, where much of the first part of the movie is set. The English title refers to Chungking Mansions and the Midnight Express food stall that Faye Wong's stands outside during the end of the film.
Tagline: If my memory of her has an expiration date, let it be 10,000 years...
Historically, the number "10,000" was used to represent the concept of "forever" in China and many other Asian countries.
The movie comprises two different stories, told one after the other, each about a romance involving a policeman. The first policeman is the Taiwanese-born Cop 223 (Ah Wu, played by Kaneshiro; "Wu" is the Chinese pronunciation of the Japanese "Takeshi"), who has broken up with his girlfriend May. Every day he purchases a tin of pineapples with an expiration date of May 1. By the end of this time, he feels that he will either be rejoined with his love or that it will have expired forever. The second officer is Cop 663 (Leung), who is similarly dealing with his breakup from a flight attendant (Valerie Chow). He meets a new girl (Faye Wong) at a local lunch counter who falls for him secretly, and who breaks into his apartment during the day to redecorate.
Save for a moment when the first story ends and the second begins, the two stories do not intertwine. However, the main characters from each story are captured momentarily in the alternative tale, thus bridging the two narratives.
Both stories, about disconnection, loneliness and isolation in a vast city, are photographed by Wong's longtime collaborator Christopher Doyle in the style of a music video, making references to Jean-Luc Godard (signs, slogans, pop music) and to John Cassavetes (improvised dialogue and situations).
Some critics, among them M. A. Abbas, have likened the motif of expiration dates to the arrival of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China (May 1st being, among other things, May Day). A similar theory relating the handover of Hong Kong to Wong Kar-wai's story has been posted at a Brigitte Lin's website.
The film was made during a two month break from the shooting of his wuxia epic, Ashes of Time. Wong had to stop production on that film to wait for equipment to redo the sound. "While I had nothing to do, I decided to make Chungking Express following my instincts." Originally, Wong envisioned the movie to consist of two stories. The filmmaker remembers, "One would be located in Hong Kong and the other in Kowloon; the action of the first would happen in daylight, the other at night. And despite the difference, they are the same stories. After the very heavy stuff, heavily emphasized in Ashes of Time, I wanted to make a very light, contemporary movie, but where the characters had the same problems." Initially, Wong wanted to make these stories into a film but couldn't find a way to do it until he "had the idea to unite them in one screenplay. When I started to film, I didn't have it written completely. I filmed in chronological order. The first part happened during the night. I wrote the sequel of the story in one day! Thanks to a brief interruption for the New Year festivities, I had some more time to finish the rest of the script." He kept on writing and developed a third story. However, after filming the first two stories, he found that the film was getting too long so he relocated the third segment, about a love-sick hitman, to an entirely different movie. For this reason, his next picture Fallen Angels is usually considered a sequel to Chungking Express.
He had specific locations in mind where he wanted to set the action of the film. Wong said in an interview, "One: Tsim Sha Tsui. I grew up in that area and I have a lot of feelings about it. It's an area where the Chinese literally brush shoulders with westerners, and is uniquely Hong Kong. Inside Chungking Mansion you can run into people of all races and nationalities: Chinese, white people, black people, Indian." This is the setting for much of the first story. Chungking Mansion is very famous with, as Wong observed, "its 200 lodgings, it is a mix of different cultures...it is a legendary place where the relations between the people are very complicated. It has always fascinated and intrigued me. It is also a permanent hotspot for the cops in HK because of the illegal traffic that takes place there. That mass-populated and hyperactive place is a great metaphor for the town herself."
The second half of the film was shot in Central, near a popular fast food shop called Midnight Express. "In this area, there are a lot of bars, a lot of foreign executives would hang out there after work," Wong remembers. The fast food shop is forever immortalized as the spot where Tony Leung and Faye Wong's characters met and became attracted to one another. Wong was also drawn to "the escalator from Central to the mid-levels. That interests me because no one has made a movie there. When we were scouting for locations we found the light there entirely appropriate."
Quentin Tarantino, an admirer of Wong Kar-wai, decided to promote the movie in the United States. A slightly different cut of Chungking Express was released through Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures label, both theatrically and on video. The latter featured bookended remarks by Tarantino.
Faye Wong's Song "Mong Zhong Ren (夢中人)" (literally "people in a dream" or "person of my dreams"), a Cantonese cover of The Cranberries' "Dreams" is played twice in the movie. And "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas, Faye Wong's character's favorite song, is used as a leitmotif throughout the film to convey the characters' state of mind.
Cast and roles
Awards and nominations
1994 Golden Horse Awards
- Winner - Best Actor (Tony Leung Chiu Wai)
1995 Hong Kong Film Awards
- Winner - Best Picture
- Winner - Best Director (Wong Kar-wai)
- Winner - Best Actor (Tony Leung Chiu Wai)
- Winner - Best Editing (William Cheung Suk-Ping, Kwong Chi-Leung, Hai Kit-Wai)
- Nomination - Best Actress (Faye Wong)
- Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Valerie Chow Kar-Ling)
- Nomination - Best Screenplay (Wong Kar-wai)
- Nomination - Best Cinematography (Christopher Doyle, Andrew Lau Wai-Keung)
- Nomination - Best Art Direction (William Cheung Suk-Ping)
- Nomination - Best Original Film Score (Frankie Chan Fan-Kei, Roel A. Garcia)
In addition, a poll published by Sight and Sound (the monthly magazine of the British Film Institute) placed Chungking Express at number eight after it asked fifty leading UK film critics to choose the ten best films from the past 25 years. It was described to be arguably one of the best Asian films of contemporary cinema.