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chungking express has two different stories, two different sets of main casts and two cinematographers, even the title itself is an amalgamation of two location, chungking mansions and the midnight express snack bar.
the original chinese title of this movie (重庆森林) which translates to chungking forest, which itself is another amalgamation of one location (chungking mansions) and one idiomatic term (concrete jungle). this direct translation befits the theme of this movie more, the examination of loneliness and the desire for love in the overcrowded city of hong kong.
chungking mansions was heralded as the best example of globalisation in action of asia by time. it was said to host more than hundreds of nationalities of residence, dominantly indians and pakistanis. there are two floors in the building that hosted all commercial establishments from shopping arcades to local bar. this location is also notoriously known for its reputation from drug activity and thats where brigitte lins enigmatic woman in blonde hair comes in focus of the first story. the location also hinted towards the uneasiness atmosphere in hong kong during that period.
the two stories are told in sequence and almost unrelated to each other however related to the theme. both of the policemen (cop 223 in the first story, cop 663 in the second story) had recent romantic breakups and are trying to move on past the heartbreak. the first story ended with a frame freeze of brigitte lin while the second begin with a frame freeze of faye wong while ‘california dreaming takes over ‘things in life.
despite the exploration on such melancholic subject, chungking express is loads of fun, quirky dialogues, actions and narrations that make it such a joy to watch. the visual style employed here is interesting, two stories with two distinctive visual style, the first one feels more to observe while the second is more intimate. the coffee sipping scene is one of the most notable scene in the movie, blurry, sped up crowd with the actual focus being in slow motion. the free-flowing handheld camera motion is very noticeable throughout the whole second half, plenty of close-up shots and the way the camera hovers above the candles is breathtakingly well done. in many ways, the second story overshadows the first one too much, largely contributed to the charm that faye wong brings to her. however the first story does contribute more to the overall theme.
romance, breakups, infatuation, jealousy and all the vague romantic emotional thoughts, they all have their own expiry dates. loneliness and solitude however can be eternal. chungking express is an arresting piece of observation of obsession on exes, mules and pineapples. close proximity in this concrete jungle is only but part of the urban life.
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