Of Canned Pineapples and California Dreamin'

Tagline: If my memory of her has an expiration date, let it be 10,000 years...

Wong Kar-wai, 1994

Wong Kar-wai (a.k.a. WKW) lets us unwind with Chungking Express, which is more laid-back compared with his intense martial arts drama Ashes of TimeChungking Express is a feel-good movie wherein canned pineapples, stuff toy, towels, chef salad, and The Mamas and the Papas' California Dreamin' are one of the characters.

He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is a boyish-looking civilian police undercover cop who can't get over the fact that his girlfriend dumped him. For a sense of closure, he consumes expired canned pineapples. (Canned pineapples are his ex-girlfriend's favorite.) He then goes to the Bottoms Up Club to settle his queasy stomach, and then promises himself that he'll fall in love with the first woman he sees in the bar. That woman is the Woman in blonde wig (Brigitte Lin), an attractive but jaded lady. He Qiwu approaches the Woman in blonde wig, it wasn't like what he was expecting. Later, WKW warms up the frigid and almost unemotional Woman in blonde wig by showing her tender side.

Meanwhile, Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is a craggily charming cop in uniform. His girlfriend also broke up with him, but he doesn't eat expired canned pineapples. Instead, he talks to a stuff toy, a bar of soap, towels, and even to a uniform. He frequently dines at the Midnight Express food stall, where Faye (Faye Wong) works. Faye is a pretty, slim, and enigmatic girl who digs the song California Dreamin'. She falls for Cop 663 without him knowing it. She obtains a key to his apartment and sneaks to his place to clean it and arrange his things (her way of showing her affection). Cop 663 eventually finds out about Faye's endeavors in his place and — instead of being mad — asks her for a date. Is it love or loneliness on Cop 663's part?

Chungking Express is a film that delves more into the character rather than the plot. Most of WKW's films are into the growth of a character, which works very well. The characters in Chungking Express are not extraordinary people, they're just like those people we see every day. What's great about the characters are their effectiveness; some audiences might find them quirky, while some might find a deep sense of connection with them.

Faye Wong

Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung are very good as the lovesick cops. It's nice to see actors who are not afraid to play characters that are stereotypically feminine. Brigitte Lin is remarkable as the Woman in blonde wig. Faye Wong is engaging as the secret admirer of Leung's character. It's a delight to see the chemistry between Wong and Leung. No wonder they were paired again in WKW's moody film 2046 (10 years after Chungking Express). Cinematographer Christopher Doyle splashes the film with vivid colors that — along with the atmospheric music — evoke a sense of warmth.

Chungking Express is one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite films. He even introduced the film to North American audiences by backing up its US release.

My rating: 9/10 - Chungking Express is WKW's best film, so far.

Trailer for Chungking Express:

DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.

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