Policeman N223 suffers from a broken heart and falls in love with a mysterious woman involved in criminal schemes. And policeman N663 gets dumped by a stewardess girl, and he doesn’t notice the signs of attention from a slightly strange nightclub worker. Two love stories in Hong Kong’s urban jungle: about the search for happiness, the stuffiness of everyday life, and dreams of California.
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The hardest thing to tell someone about this film is to determine its genre. The picture balances between romance, crime and humor without going completely into anyone’s territory and keeping a perfect balance between the seriousness of the topics raised and the lightness of the narration. “The Chungking Express” is a few torn pages from the annals of the big city. It is, for all the seemingly enormous opportunities it offers, ruthless to its inhabitants. So much so, that in the mass of random people you meet, in pursuit of the city’s jerky and frantic rhythm, you may have just missed the love of your life. And she missed you, as she was probably also in a hurry. Under such conditions, found feelings (or an ersatz version of them?) become a habit. A habit with an expiration date.
It is no coincidence that the director omits the names of the main characters, leaving them only the police numbers, 223 and 663, and one of the main characters does not allow her dark glasses to be removed during her entire time in the frame and mashes her destination on the ticket. This is not the story of a policeman who determines the expiration date of love, not a criminal tale of unfulfilled drug trafficking, and not even a parable about the feelings of a waitress, the Cantonese prototype of Amelie.
The refrain here is a song with the beautiful title “California Dreamin’,” which would do well to remain just a dream. There is nothing special about the sung southern state in reality, and this is the uncomplicated conclusion the film’s heroine eventually comes to. Everywhere else in the world, loneliness runs with the same symptoms, only exacerbated by the multimillion-dollar megacities. And only by changing geographic coordinates can one barely get rid of them.
The international nature of the soundtrack, along with the diversity of the languages spoken in the film, emphasizes the universality of the problem raised. Loneliness according to Kar Wai is light, optimistic, not soul-crushing, though it certainly takes after it. Unrequited love doesn’t turn into a shot to the temple or a poison capsule, replaced by stitched pineapples and a jog. The director carries a number of interesting comparisons and analogies through the film, from comparisons of love to a can of canned food to a fast-food meal. Gone are the classic days of great suffering. There are no more Romeo’s and Juliet’s, no more big obstacles in the way of Feeling. No more long sensual letters, replaced by pagers and answering machines. There are no more Heroes and Ladies of the Heart, there are lonelinesses smoldering among the lights of the big city. And the realization of all this does not kill or make you stick your head in a noose, but only allows you to smile sadly to yourself and quietly get ready for work.
Hong Kong’s Wong Kar Wai’s picture is one of the most original creations of the 1990s, torn almost in lunch breaks, and thus perfectly captures its spirit and rhythm. And if it is ever decided to create a canned capsule to be sent into space with samples of humanity’s cultural heritage, then in the rubric of the last decade of the twentieth century the DVD of Kar Wai’s film should lie somewhere near his loud manifesto, Pulp Fiction.
Codec: HEVC / H.265 (66.6 Mb/s)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
HDR: Dolby Vision, HDR10
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Original aspect ratio: 1.66:1
Cantonese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Cantonese: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0