by HELEN GEIB
Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai’s last two films were marked by a nostalgic interest in his earlier works. 2046 was a continuation of sorts of stories and characters from Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love, while My Blueberry Nights held echoes of Chungking Express (1994). In my review of My Blueberry Nights (released on DVD last week), I recommended it as a good introduction to Wong’s work for American audiences.
An even better introduction, for all audiences, is to watch the wonderful Chungking Express itself, a movie that continues to delight even after repeated viewings.
The film tells two stories, unrelated except in theme, about young men trying to get over the heartbreak of being abruptly dumped by their girlfriends. The hero of the first story (heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro in an early role) becomes obsessed with expiration dates. Metaphorically in relation to love- culminating in a brief, strange interlude with a mysterious woman, and literally in relation to canned food- culminating in a pineapple feast.
The second story stars Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Faye Wong (a pop idol, in a much more felicitous example of cross-disciplinary casting than Norah Jones in My Blueberry Nights). He is totally wrapped up in his heartache. She takes his general obliviousness as an opportunity to infiltrate his life to make him happier. As his apartment is slowly transformed, it becomes a game to see how many things will change in his surroundings- and his emotions- before he notices what’s happening.
Chungking Express is Wong’s happiest film and probably his most popular. Quentin Tarantino is its most famous enthusiast, and thanks to him the film is readily available in a good quality DVD release for a very low price. It is also available as part of a high-quality box set release from Kino Video of five of Wong’s films.
New releases this week: Little Chenier, The Ruins, Sleepwalking, Stop-Loss, Superhero Movie