Chungking Express (1994) | Duration: 1h 42m | Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Writer: Kar-Wai Wong | Cast: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Faye Wong | Country: Hong Kong
We are 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.
I remember re-watching Chungking Express years after watching it for the first time in high school. This time, it was in the middle of my fourth semester in university, when I was buried deep in assignments and extracurricular activities. But somehow, and for reasons that I can’t quite put a finger on, I really wanted to watch this film. So I dropped everything and watched it the very night.
By the time the ending credits rolled, I was in tears. Not because I was sad, but not because I was happy either. But because of an overwhelming feeling of relief, because at that moment, I felt that I am truly, finally, understood.
Chungking Express is a film about two lovelorn policemen, whose stories are told in sequence after their lives come in contact for a mere 0.01 centimeter. The first story is about Cop 223 who is obsessed with his breakup with his girlfriend of 5 years, May. On his mission to move on, he encounters a mysterious female figure from the Hong Kong underworld. The second story is about Cop 663 who, after separating from his flight attendant girlfriend, is roused from his gloom by a quirky snack bar worker. This snack bar, called Midnight Express, is a snack bar that both cops frequent, and an important element as to how their stories collide.
In this film, we see how heartbreak isolates you from the world around you. And not even indeliberately, sometimes we consciously push other people away because no one seems to understand what we’re going through. And that makes it hard to move on, let alone let other people in. We see Cop 223 lash out at a supermarket cashier because he felt him take a jab at his crumbling relationship. And we see Cop 663 bury himself in work so he won’t have to come home to the now empty apartment he used to share with his ex-girlfriend. Through the beautiful, almost poetic cinematography, we see how irony is painted on watching our cops isolate themselves as they mourn their love lost in the hustle and bustle of crowded Chungking Mansions.
But on the flip-side, we also get to see how hope sometimes presents itself to us in almost comedic timing, as represented by the two female leads. In contrast to the police officers, our female leads go about their days without much thought while actively searching for the big little things that make life worthwhile. And as they share this with our melancholic policemen, together they find hope for survival in this concrete jungle, and even for newfound love.
At the time I was watching this, I was not lovesick like the main characters in the film were. I was just tired. Because of how busy I was, and how busy my friends were, so we did not have time to hang out outside the work we had to do. But this film gave me comfort because it made me feel like, in my loneliness and weariness, I was not alone. Because this film is all about the irony of feeling alone in a crowded room, like the smallness of the biggest emotion we know in the face of a life that is larger than we will ever be. Our main characters must have felt like it was the end of the world after their girlfriends left, and we, at some points of our lives, must have felt the same way. But know that no, the world is not ending just yet, know that there are better days ahead, and everything will be okay. It may not seem like it now, but it will.
So if you’re looking for something to give you comfort on your worst days, watch this film. I can at least guarantee that when Tony Leung as Cop 663 smiles in the final scene of this film, it will make you smile and feel all warm inside. And California Dreamin’ stuck in your head for days.