Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Evesdropping Over at Chungking Express

Chungking Express • 重慶森林 • 1994 • Wong Kar-Wai
I first watched this film for my Mandarin 10 • 11 Integrated Class in college. I remember I got a 1.5 in Mandarin because it was so much fun because of the films, songs, TV shows we were watching for the class. I have to thank my Mandarin Class for introducing me to Wong Kar-Wai Films. I barely remember the details of this film, since it was 11 years ago since I first saw it. But surely this movie you may not remember everything because of the language barriers and cultural connotations, but Chungking Express is one unforgettable and memorable film for the soft spot feelings it will leave you. 

I started watching Wong Kar-Wai films again this summer as I've been having this drawing interest over (East/South East) Asian Arts... Well given the obvious that I am an Asian. I just kinda want to re-immerse myself with these Asian sensibilities... Other than Japanese Culture. 

I remember loving this film so much and I remember leaving my class with a light heart 11 years ago. But I never realized how poetic the screenplay of this film was as I started watching it with a more critical and analytical outtake. There's this bittersweet recurring lost of love theme and the hope that comes despite in this film with a very "Asian" perspective that I kinda related myself with. A little melodramatic and lost in  your own thoughts with that total avoidance of confrontation. We Asians do not like confrontations (Well, I think I kinda gotten myself to be a bit feisty over the years but I still do not like confrontations). 

The warm colored tints with hints of vignette frame of the film kept the film feeling intimate just like us viewers are part of the dirty busy streets of Hong Kong while the goings on along Chungking Express is happening. I love how it is captured in this film, that busy city Asian life. It's very mundane, I can go to Binondo or Quiapo and see this kind of scenery but I would have not thought about its' beauty. I like that in this scenery beauty still was captured among the people, the poetry, the emotions playing along the mundane objects, sounds, etc.

Oh I wish someday, I can also create something that triggers all senses possible. In this recent phase of self exploration, self reinvention and growing up, this idea of "triggering all senses" kinda struct me. Especially in this very fleeting fast phased life we are now experiencing; nothing lasts forever, it's so hard to keep up with everything else... It's very challenging to keep anything for a long time. We are like vapors that's gone in the air in a mist. (Snapchat App feeds only lasts 24-hours what is up with that?) I don't like this idea at all. I am, as someone has always told me, very "gourmand" to want to keep things all to myself forever. I don't know may be I am stuck in the old times where everything is just black and white and things can be simple as coming home. It kills me to be forgotten, it kills me to be replaced, it kills me to be expired. Nothing lasts forever! 

All I can aspire to be is to be memorable as much as possible. Be unique and someone (whether it's your clientele, audience, supporter, enthusiast, listener, voter, fan, admirer or even a lover) might start to crave you more and more. Trigger all the senses and not just what's on the surface. Why am having all these reflections here? Oh yeah, just like how Chungking Express triggered all the possible senses and most especially the heart. From the loud "California Dreaming" music, dark shady alleys, that overwhelming bittersweet pineapple cans, that smooth skin of that Flight Attendant Ex-Girlfriend where those mini planes trinkle down her back, and the Mysterious Blonde Girl's very tired and un-fragrant shoes... I want to be part of your film, I felt like I was. 

To be honest I have not finished my film viewing as I started writing this. As fleeting as stating the obvious, I wanted to write the initial thoughts and feeling as every scene comes up. I actually compiled some of the perfect visuals vis-a-vis the narrative and the metaphoric lines recurring through-out the film. But just to completely cherish this film, I compiled some of my favorite memorable lines and scenes from Chungking Express. 


"We're all unlucky in love sometimes. When I am, I go jogging. The body loses water when you jog... So you have none left for tears."
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"We split up on April Fool's Day. So I decided to let the joke run for a month. Every day I buy a can of pineapple with a sell-by date of May 1. May loves pineapple, and May 1 is my birthday. If May hasn't changed her mind by the time I've bought thirty cans, then our love will also expire."
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"People like you are hung up on freshness. You realize what goes into a can of pineapple? The fruit must be grown, harvested, sliced... and you just throw it away! How do you think the can feels about that?"
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Somehow I'm curious about that... Is there anything in the world which doesn't?"
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"I finally found my 30th can. As May 1 begins, realization dawns. In May's eyes... I'm no different from a can of pineapple."
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"There's a song 'Love Dies at Dawn'. That's how I feel now. How can I forget May? I promise myself... I'll fall in love...with the first woman who walks in here."
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"

"Actually, really knowing someone doesn't mean anything. People change. A person may like pineapple today and something else tomorrow."

- Woman in Blonde Wig, "Chungking Express"

"On May 1 , 1994... A woman wishes me a happy birthday. Now I'll remember her all my life. If memories could be canned... Would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries."
- He Zhiwu, Cop 223 "Chungking Express"


The second leg of the film had more flow and dialogue in between. I especially like this second half because of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Faye (Faye Wong)... The escapist dreamer. Sounds so me sometimes. 

I love how the two tales around Chungking Express are both about losing love and finding hope to find another. It showed that human connections and self reflections. Tony Leung's poetry over his inanimate apartment is so endearing.

"Did I leave the tap running... or is the apartment getting more tearful? I always thought it would cope okay. Didn't expect it to cry so much. When people cry... they can dry their eyes with tissues. But when an apartment cries... it takes a lot to mop it up."

- Cop 663 "Chungking Express"

"I don't know if it's the weather... but lately I've changed a lot. I've become more observant. I notice things I used to take for granted. Even the sardines taste different..."

"You mustn't let yourself go. You've gained weight so fast. She may have gone but life goes on. You must stop indulging yourself..."

"You're a real disappointment to me. You've changed so much. Haven't you? You can't just switch personality like this. Her walking out is no excuse. Pull yourself together..."

"It was such a relief when I saw it crying. It may look different... but it's still true to itself. It's still an emotionally charged towel..."

"I'm more optimistic these days. Haven't you noticed? Things are starting to look up. You used to look really dumb... but you've become quite cute. But you mustn't get yourself so dirty. You used to be cleaner. Look at these dirty stripes. Have you been fighting?"

"Oh, that's where you've been hiding. I've been looking for you. Time to stop running away. You don't smell too good, either. Out in the sun tomorrow, okay?"

- Cop 663 "Chungking Express"

What are you doing here?
Cop 663: I've come for my letter.
Faye: Letter? Ask them.
Cop 663: You were keeping it. He says you have it.
Faye: I have? Where did I put it? Ah! I was afraid it would get lost. I promise I haven't read it.
Faye: Why do you ask?
Cop 663: I want to date you.
Faye: A date?
Cop 663: The boss says you're off tomorrow.
Faye: So I have to go on a date? Think it over.
Cop 663: I'll meet you in California restaurant at 8:00. That song's not right for you. Try this one.

Faye: I'm doomed! Doomed!
Manager: Hey, No. 663 is smooth with girls.

"I cleaned up my place that afternoon. It was like cleaning the runway for a new flight."

- Cop 663 "Chungking Express"

Cop 663: One thing I must ask you. Would you let a person on board with a boarding pass like this? It's dated today, but it got blurred in the rain. I don't know where it's taking me. Do you?

Faye: No idea, but I'll give you another. Great. Where do you want to go? 

Cop 663: Wherever you want to take me.


For sure you'll be seeing me write some more about such analysis and realizations over art reflections and design brainstorming. More Wong Kar-Wai's for sure. I truly want to adapt this filter visual over something I want to create. Hence, I am recollecting these awesome influences. The heart and the art... both I truly admire in this film.

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