One of the reasons why I love Wong Kar Wai and his movies is that, for many of us, our love stories don’t follow the Hollywood formula of boy-meets-girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Often times our love stories are off-tangent, and messy, and unglamorous. And most of us don’t get to play out our little romance in Paris or Italy or even snazzy New York.
And Wong Kar Wai is a master at romanticizing the small, quirky and unconventional love stories that would normally go by unnoticed in the greater scheme of things.
His setting of choice is always the neon-wonderland that is Hong Kong. His characters are always quirky, crazy or seedy types that are always either heartbroken or harboring the heaviness of unrequited love.
Chungking Express was the first movie I saw of his. It’s actually a two part film — the first involves Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), who is left by a girl named May, and now has pledged that he will eat pineapple preserves in cans with an expiry date of May 1. When May 1 rolls around, he will then muster the courage to move on. Along the way, he meets a woman in a blonde wig (who, throughout the movie is known as the woman in the blonde wig), whom he is forced to take care of because she seems to be in trouble with the mob.
The next story also involves a cop – Cop 663 (Tony Leung) who has been deserted by his flight attendant girlfriend. Enter, Faye (Faye Wong), a weird, elfin girl who works at a 24-hour snack bar that Cop 663 and his then girlfriend used to frequent. One of the cutest bits in the movie is when Faye – in ultimate stalker fashion – trespasses on Cop 663’s apartment and makes small changes here and there. She replaces his soap, his stuffed animal, even the canned goods in his cupboard.
We see these two love stories unfold in Wong’s very stylized storytelling. Oblique camera angles, slowed-down or speeded-up sequences, hazy, dream like editing, kinetic camera pacing, all laced with heavy, mood music or the occasional pop song (California Dreaming).
I like how – in such a grimy, seedy city, an unconventional love story can unfold, and through Wong Kar Wai’s unique, romantic vision, we can actually think of them as beautiful.
And as with most of the love stories I like – there is no neat resolution or a clear cut happy ending. Chungking Express only hints and flirts at this possibility, and we are left, to chase after that feeling.
I won’t spoil it for you – but the movie’s ending is one of my all-time favorites and it has to do with the last two lines.
I think you’ll like it Rachey, it’s cute, crazy, unconventional and very romantic. Watch also Fallen Angels, In The Mood for Love and 2046.