Blackouts are always a bummer. This one, particularly, because it lasted 24 hours and included both my apartment and my family’s home. The last time we had one that lasted this long, I spent most of it squinting at Noli me Tangere by candlelight and thinking, how very appropriate. This time, I watched Chungking Express alone at midnight and felt the same. Somehow, the atmosphere is better when it’s dark inside and a strange quiet hangs in the air.
Chungking Express opens with a chase. He Qiwu, or Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro), runs through crowded passageways to nab a criminal, pushing past an older woman (Brigitte Lin) whom he claims he will fall in love with 57 hours later. At the end of this episode (which lasts for half the movie), he briefly encounters another girl called Faye (Faye Wong) at a snack bar, and tells us that six hours later, she will fall in love with someone else. What follows is her story with Cop 663 (Tony Leung).
I expected this to be like all the other Wong Kar-wai movies I’ve watched: sad, serious, tricky with the camerawork. It certainly seemed so at the beginning. The liquid swathes of color, combined with eerie music, create an impressionistic illusion of hurry. (At this point, with an attentive viewer, the point is already established.) But Chungking Express is different. It’s definitely lighter, although that doesn’t make it any less profound. Throughout the film we see momentary intersections of lives, mere points in the long line of our existence. We all lead tangential lives, and we spend most of it searching for that someone with whom we can share our solitude, someone whom we will return to, again and again, across distances and even after the passing of time.
Towards the end of the movie, there is one scene which seemed like a suitable ending: Faye alone in a restaurant, one year after. Outside, it is raining, and the camera slows down to capture droplets sliding down a window. The scene freezes. Desperately, I hoped that it would continue, although I knew that an ending right there would have worked as well. At that point I realized—with shocking disclosure—that whichever conclusion the film chose, I would still like it. Apparently, I had gone beyond being an objective viewer. Chungking Express had already gripped me, and it wouldn’t let me go.
Every day we brush past so many other people. People we may never meet, or people who may become close friends.
This was the closest we ever got. Just 0.01 of a centimeter between us. But 57 hours later, I fell in love with this woman.
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.
Somehow everything comes with an expiry date… Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?
I’ll fall in love with the first woman who walks in here.
Knowing someone doesn’t mean keeping them. People change.
If memories could be canned, would they also have expiry dates? If so, I hope they last for centuries.
I didn’t open the letter. Some things need time to sink in.