CHUNG KING EXPRESS, 1994
Cast: Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Valerie Chow, Chen Jinquan
Two different stories about the complexities of love in 90s Hong Kong but dealing with themes that are universal and timeless.
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As somebody accused of often having my head in the clouds, California Dreaminí by the mamas and the papas is a song that particularly resonates with me with its promise of a land that can make everything seem ok. Similar to the character of Faye from this movie, I would often play it whilst working to take my mind off the frustrations of a menial day job. At this point in time I had not seen or even heard of Chunk King Express but a Chinese co-worker suggested I see it due to the similarities of our characters. I tracked it down and reignited a passion for Hong Kong cinema that I thought had died in my teenage years after I grew out of those Shaw Brothers martial arts films. It introduced me to a very stylish school of film making, populated by elusive but intriguing characters and a backdrop that begs you to visit this part of the world and be consumed by its exotic charm.
There are two different stories of Chung King Express, not intertwining, just one after the after although both involve police officers whose paths briefly cross, they centre around failed relationships and the very different women that they fall for.
First up we have the hopeless romantic, officer 223, a man that runs every day until he sweats out as much liquid as his body can spare just to minimise his chances of crying. He is trying to deal with the fact that he was dumped by his girlfriend. Despite the fact that he is a clear thinking, level headed, officer of the law, when it comes to matters of the heart, 223 subjects himself to bizarre rituals such as this as well as his daily consumption of a tin of pineapples that expire on the date that he was dumped, believing that this will lead to him either reconciling with his former partner or that their love will expire like the pineapples. The pineapple theme seems to be recurring metaphor in Wong Kar Waiís work as in hiss 1995 film Fallen Angels, the same actor plays He Ziwu, a mute that lost his voice after eating a tin of out of date pineapples.
In his quest for romance, 223 drunkenly makes moves on a mysterious woman in a blonde wig (Bridgette Lin). After some not too smooth lines he ends up in her hotel room where the only action the sheets see are here wasted frame passing out in a drunken stupor while he lies awake beside her watching movies.
The next day on his routine jog, a surprise message from the mystery woman wishing him a happy birthday appears to be his first step on the road to moving on. If only he knew this thoughtful blonde was a violent, vengeful, drug trafficker.
Story number two sees Tony Leung as 663. He is also trying to handle life after a relationship breakdown and although he appears to deal with it better than 223, he is still far from happy. This depression is noted by Faye, an aloof fantasist played by pop star Faye Wong, she works at a snack bar and plays California Dreaminí over and over add nauseum. Faye quietly falls for 663 from afar and concocts ludicrous ways to be a part of his life by breaking in to his apartment and adding her own little touches to his home that she thinks will make him happy.With time, 663 develops feelings for Faye but his hopes are dashed when she decides last minute to stand him up so she can finally give her dreams a shot and boards a plane for California.
Her departure however, does not necessarily spell the end for these two as she returns a year later to find that he has bought the snack bar, as the movie ends, it is left to our own imaginations as to what the future may have in store for them.
Chung King Express is quite a touching film but not overly sentimental, it juxtaposes different emotional states such as the madness of love and loss with the human condition to just get on with things and persevere. On top of this it is a very stylish film but not at the expense of its ability to affect the audience. It has been described as a love letter to Hong Kong but manages to have a distinctly European feel at times, these all add up to becoming a charming movie that youíll want to return to again and again as you develop a genuine interest and affection for the lead characters.