Craving Criterion: ‘Chungking Express’

Craving Criterion is a new regular series where one of our contributors reviews and discusses the Criterion Channel’s Movie of the Week.

Great news for all those who mourned FilmStruck after the streaming service was shuttered in late 2018—the Criterion Collection will launch their own streaming service called The Criterion Channel on April 8th. In the meantime, the site will feature a Movie of the Week from the collection for those who sign up as a charter subscriber. The second Movie of the Week was Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 Hong Kong romantic drama feature focusing on two policemen after their lovers have left.

Spoilers ahead

Chungking Express will always have a tender place in my heart due to the nature of the sequential stories. It is a film about heartbreak as much as it is about finding love again in the oddest of places. Wong captures each scene with frantic motion, blurs of colors, and dreamlike sequences blended with songs that will stay stuck in your head. The biggest theme of both stories is how one’s life can be drastically changed by one chance encounter.

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the things we do to cope after a breakup

The first story is about Cop 663, who was recently dumped by his girlfriend May on April 1st, but he decides to wait till May 1st, his birthday before moving on. Every day he buys a can of pineapples with the expiration date of May 1st because his ex liked pineapples. This situation is something everyone who had a past relationship can relate to because often times we come up scenarios, what ifs, and ultimatums in our head to help us move on after a heartbreak. Of course in the process, there is always a person who happens to stumble into your life to either progress or hinder the healing. This person for Cop 663, is a woman in a blonde wig who unbeknownst to him is a criminal. They share one night together, but that one night brings perspective to his life and allows him to move on.

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One night with the mysterious women allows him to move on

Story two is my favorite because it only emphasizes the theme of chance encounters. For you see the woman who has an impact our next cop could have easily met Cop 663, but that is the nature of chance encounters. You could easily walk right the person who has the power to change your life on the street, and you wouldn’t even know it.

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” What could have been “one of the themes of Chungking Express

Cop 223, is also recently dumped by his flight attendant girlfriend, which leads him to be depressed and talking to his furniture. He often visits a shop, where one of the workers Faye, secretly falls in love with him. Without him knowing she starts to impact his life, and before he can reciprocate her feelings, she leaves to California. Her short time with him, left a huge impact on his life like the woman who left an impact on our previous cop. Luckily for Cop 223, Faye returns a year later where they begin to start anew.

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Faye changes Cop 223 life as much as he changes her’s

Chunking Express always has a tender place in my heart due to the nature of the sequential stories. It is a film about heartbreak as much as it is about finding love again in the oddest of places. Wong captures each scene with frantic motion, blurs of colors, and dreamlike sequences blended with songs that will stay stuck in your head. There is a unique style to his characters, that makes you want to keep following their stories, long after the credits end. Wong’s Chungking Express is iconic for making you want to fall in love, eat pineapples, and listen to the famous soundtrack featuring The Mamas & the Papas – California Dreamin’.

Chungking Express is currently out of print in the Criterion Collection, but there are signs it will return soon. Until then I will be California dreaming of the next time I watch this iconic film.

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