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Chungking Express

September 9, 2010

878. Chong Qing Sen Lin (Chungking Express)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Hong Kong, 1994

IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
Approx. fourth viewing


Two loosely-connected love stories about police officers. They both frequent the Midnight Express snack bar, but their paths never cross.

Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) was dumped on April Fools’ Day by a girl called May. He decides to wait for her until his birthday on May 1st, holding out hope that she was joking. Later he shares an evening with a mysterious woman in a blonde wig (Brigitte Lin), unaware that she is a drug smuggler.

Midnight Express employee Faye (Faye Wong) develops a crush on regular customer Cop 663 (Tony Leung). The cop’s flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) leaves a breakup letter for him at the snack bar, but he refuses to take it. Faye keeps the letter and, using the enclosed key, secretly renovates his drab apartment.

Essential Scene:

I took it as a joke when she said on April Fools’ Day that we’d separate. I decided to let the joke last for a month. Since the day we separated, I’ve bought a can of pineapples each day because pinapples are May’s favourite. May 1st is my birthday. I told myself if May doesn’t change her mind after I’ve bought 30 cans, our love will expire as well.

Cop 223 has been collecting canned pineapples all month, each with a May 1st expiration date. It’s now the evening of April 30th, and it’s proving almost impossible to find the last can. He searches the shelves of a convenience store to no avail, then approaches the man behind the counter. They proceed to argue about the Picture "borrowed" from the Criterion Collectionvirtues of freshness versus the amount of work one can of pineapples represents. The disgruntled clerk eventually gives Cop 223 a full box of expired canned foods. He takes the box outside and begins to sort though the cans. No pineapples. He offers the box to a passing homeless man. The man declines.

“They’re expired.”

Somewhere, somehow, everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish will expire. Meat sauce will expire. Even Glad Wrap will expire. I wonder if there’s anything in the world that won’t expire?


Chungking Express is a mood piece full of delightfully whimsical notions. Cop 223 copes with heartbreak by jogging, reasoning that there won’t be any water left for tears if he sweats it all out. The mysterious drug-smuggler wears sunglasses and a raincoat to be prepared for any weather. Cop 663 projects his sorrow onto household objects, comforting a “crying” wet towel and expressing disapproval at a “skinny” bar of soap. And the only reason Faye isn’t considered a creepy stalker is because she’s so gosh-darn cute!

Christopher Doyle’s distinctive cinematography is appropriately playful. Some scenes play in juddering slow motion, others at accelerated speed, and all bathed in the neon glow of urban Hong Kong. The only problem is Wong Kar-wai’s tendency to associate certain characters or moods with pop songs, using the song as a recurring motif. You’ll have “California Dreamin'” lodged in your brainbox for weeks to come…

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 11:08 am

    loved the film.

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