Chunking Express is a Hong Kong film consisting of two stories that are not directly linked. The common characters in the two films are policemen who fall in love with different women. The first one narrates the story of Takeshi Kaneshiro, a cop obsessed with a breakup relationship with a woman. The woman’s name is Mary. The second film revolves around a police officer who is recovering after a relationship break-up and is quickly smitten by a quirky bar worker Faye. The ex-girlfriend of the police officer is called Valerie while the bar worker is known as Faye. The film is highly paradoxical, and most of its characters live in their lonely world full of deeper thoughts (Bellur 352). The title of the film in translation means the jungle in the city.
The first story revolves around Qiwu, a Taiwanese cop who is 23 years of age. The cop broke up with his girlfriend on April Fool’s Day. Qiwu’s birthday was quickly approaching and was exactly a month after the break-up. Qiwu bought a tin on a daily basis hoping that his girlfriend would come back before his birthday (Bellur 352). If the girlfriend did not come back before the birthday, Qiwu would consider the relationship completely broken and over. At the same time, a blonde woman had a difficult life and tried to survive in the underworld drug business. Qiwu meets the new blonde girl in the bar on his birthday, but nothing happened between them (Bellur 352). Later on, Qiwu receives birthday wishes from the girl. During the regular visits to the drug store, Qiwu meets Faye, and a new story begins. At the same time, similar occurrences happened in the life of an unnamed officer known as Cop 66. The cop meets Faye and secretly falls in love. His former girlfriend visits the snack joint and leaves a letter that shows that the relationship between them is over. A key is also left in the letter, and both items are to be provided to the cop. Faye picks the letter but cheers him up. The two agree to meet later only for Faye not to show up. The two meet in different circumstances however the future of the play remains ambiguous
Two articles have been used to analyze different aspects of the film. The articles are “Chungking Express, Tarantino, and the Making of a Reputation” and “Close-up of Wong’s Inflections of Time and Space”. “The Close-Up of Wong’s Inflections of Time and Space” addresses how the beginning of the film contributes to and gives the audience the physical timeframe of the entire film. “Chungking Express, Tarantino, and the Making of a Reputation”, on the other hand, addresses how an unknown director of the film develops a reputation. Being the fourth movie directed by Wong, the film was shown in the United States. Most importantly, the article addresses the mode with which the film was received by the audience. The two articles address different concepts in the filmmaking industry with the first one giving the impression that Wong came up with a new genre of art that was fictitious and contradicting the normal production of films in China (Koolhaas 7). The second article discredits this new genre and regards the works of Wong to be fragmented with too much use of micro-series with the film. This necessarily does not provide a new genre that can be utilized in different sections. This is the basis of the analysis of the above two articles.
According to Bellour, Chunking Express is a great illustration of the film that contains irrational cuts, fragmentations through the transformation of different sheets, and succeeding drafts made up of variable sequences plus serious reimages of independent images. Bellour states that Chucking Express inherited an uncommon style similar to the one used in the golden era where transitions between different scenes were hardly detectable. In addition, the film is related to a work that involved combining different images that were not related and bringing them together to create a paradox (Bellur 350). The film focuses on one moment to create the whole theme of the paper which is revealed at the end. The meeting of the two different parties in the film was supposed to create a lasting impression on the viewers so that they could grasp the real theme portrayed by the film. Instead, the meeting of the two main actors in the film has been restricted to a matter of seconds making it quite difficult to be accepted within different settings. In most cases, it is normally expected that the meeting of the two main characters in the film will be long enough to create a significant effect and impression that will translate in the latter stages of the film (Bettinson 434). The two minutes with the characters fail to create a lasting effect because of the use of micro-series. It seems as if the micro-series intended to develop the plot and bring out its different features. Wong creates four micro-series where there is an association between the different heroes in the film. This association could have directly been made if the film had not been broken into different micro-series.
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According to Bellour, the feeling has been accompanied by a lot of forwarding and backward movement; in the process, it has failed to preserve the rhythm of the plot (Bellur 348). The forward motion of the film fits perfectly the category of films where the story has been fully developed without interjections. In the above case, the film has been divided into smaller sets meaning that the forward motion of the movie has the ability to distort some important information that was relayed in the different scenes (Bellur 348). If the micro-series were limited to about one or two forward motion images, then the effect would not have been felt. However, the high number of forwarding images fails to put everything into the required order and in the process distorts the general feeling of the film. The film has some periods of still frozen images that are supposed to create a feeling of repetitive charm (Bellur 356). They also create an intermittent feeling when moving from one zone to another. However, the film has maintained some important aspects of rhythm. It manages to bring out the characteristic throbbing feeling to the different aspects of the film (Bellur 354). Though there may be too much micro-series, the film has managed to oscillate between the different phases without too much difficulty. The smooth transition is noted when the woman is walking forward and when the doors of the elevator are closing. Such variations bring out modulation and contrast. The feeling has also utilized three different types of time including the neutral time and the fiction time. Bellour takes the film through a journey into the sensuous space that has been presented in the film (Bellur 349). Bellour’s intent in the commentary is to provide a detailed and hidden message of all of the symbolical features that have been exploited in the film. Ideologically, Bellour is interested in bringing out what is seen on the surface of the picture but not the hidden meaning of the true message. He shows how Wong’s creation of different experiences can slowly translate and move into deeper forms of engagement than what is being depicted on the screen. This is similar to what Kickasola detailed when looking at In the Mood for Love. A good example is when Wong introduces different characters and circumstances in the film. In this case, he presents the two protagonists. They are Mr. Chow and Mrs. Chan, who are faceless adulterous spouses. After moving day when both parties attempt to get to know the true possession of the different parties, people squeeze through each other without even speaking a word (Chion & Gorbman 464). Similarly to the above case, the movement of the different parties occurs in different measures until the two protagonists finally meet. Bellour concludes stating that Chunking Express is a difficult movie to discuss because of the disjointed play in the imagery. Bellour states that the unrivaled spontaneity coupled with the unencumbered style and skillful asserted order at different levels of color, light, speed, rhythm, music, and movement provides different irreversibilities and blends that create constant emotional shifts put differently in linking the image shown in the movie to the idea passed through (Bellur 348).
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David Desser has a different view on Chunking Express. Desser explores Wong’s transitional existence as a filmmaker and notes that most of the films produced nowadays of Chinese origin never hit the market outside their nations because they differ largely in genres. Desser analyzes Wong’s work from a socio-economic viewpoint. Most of the films shown in Hong Kong majorly revolved around the use of Kung Fu illustrations (Desser 321). Rarely did such kinds of movies penetrate the different markets in various places. Desser marshals both historical and legal facts and show that the genre being produced is quite different from the original genres; therefore, the comparison cannot be equated. Desser argues that Wong’s movie hit the international market because it was a totally new film and provided a different genre (Desser 326). In addition, Wong is said to have included different important aspects which could be described as interplays between traditional forms of art and movie ongoing habits in different countries such as the United States, changing laws, rules of festival circuits, and changing dynamics between the Asian and European film markets. Wong is described as one of the international filmmakers whose work would be accepted among the different nationalities of the world. The film is more likely to do well in the American market because of its fiction like nature and an uncharacteristic ending that leaves all audiences with too many uncertainties.
Chungking Express has received substantial art-house distribution and festival play in the United States and other European countries rather than Asia (Krause and Patrice 234). It slightly varies from the other works by Wong, but the style and theme are similar. The two stories are depicted as having murky characters that have different connections even though there is an interlude between the two scenes. In other words, Chunking Express was an example of a movie that intended to show cinematic flashes that are universally accepted. The movie delimits itself from any form of sexual content and focuses on creating the iconic natural brand appeal something that clearly lacked in most films that came from places such as Asia, which was known only for the action films (Bordwell 34).
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If the film was produced in Asia, it is more likely that it would have never hit the distribution phases as it hit the European markets. Desser’s main argument is that Wong managed to come up with a unique film applicable and acceptable in different parts of the world rather than the traditional home market (Desser 328). In doing so, Wong managed to show different aspects of the film that are unique and could readily sell out in different markets. Asian countries are dominated by action films that are fast-moving and creating the throbbing performance that is yearned for. Different markets have different unique audiences with specific tastes that may not necessarily be the same (Ingham and Fung 296). This is one of the concepts that were readily used by Wong in the creation of Chungking Express. Wong’s interest was to capture the minds of individuals. He managed to do all of this by going against the norm to establish a new genre of film that would have become widely acceptable across different parts of the world (Chion & Gorbman 462). By essentially changing the genre of the film industry, Wong managed to change nearly all aspects of style from the traditional heart-throbbing entertainment forms that are characteristics of most parties to a different form that is widely acceptable to all parties across the world.
Thematically, Chungking Express is not different from Ashes of Time. It also relates to many other different films that have been produced by Wong. In Ashes of Time, the Kung Fu costume is majorly used to bring out people who have been emotionally lost in pain and rejection in a desert setting. In the case of Chungking Express, the setting is changed to a city, but the main theme of the story remains the same. Chungking Express shows people who are emotionally lost, disconnected, and who find it more difficult to cope with matters of the heart. Chungking Express is an example of a film that plays out differently based on the setting that has been selected by different individuals.
Chungking Express is an example of a film that has different interpretations and arguments based on different individuals. Bellour argues that the works of Wong were majorly intended to provide superficial information and never utilized time and space aspects adequately. The excessive use of micro-series in the work was of particular concern that probably made it close to impossible to effectively address important aspects that directly relate to the rhythm in films. As a result, the film became fragmented and could not be readily discerned by various individuals in the film industry. The analysis of Desire significantly differs from what Bellur put forth. Desser argues that Wong opted to move out of the famous Asian market that was largely known for the production of action films to the direct use of films that could attract different markets. A good argument put forth was the success of the new film in different markets across the world as opposed to the Asian market. If the works of the above filmmakers were not pleasing, it is quite difficult to explain the reception the film got in different countries across Europe. It shows that the use of new genres in different markets while incorporating traditional aspects has meaning in the film industry. One thing that completely stands out in all the works of Wong is the central theme of loneliness.