Chungking Express ★★★½

Quirky, melancholic & delightfully amusing, Chungking Express is an affectionately crafted story about love, loneliness & the often difficult process of moving on from a failed relationship. And the film works best when you allow yourself to go with the flow rather than trying to dig through its plot to find out what it's all about.

Taking place in Hong Kong, the story of Chungking Express concerns two melancholic policemen who are distraught with heartbreak over their recent break-ups, and follows them around for the next few days as one of them falls for a mysterious female underworld figure while the other one has his life spruced up by a young girl working at a snack bar he frequents.

Written & directed by Wong Kar-wai (best known for In the Mood for Love), the two stories that unfold within the film pack pretty much the same outline and miss overlapping each other by 0.01 cm. Both the halves are crafted with intimacy, brim with a heartwarming quality and feature idiosyncratic characters whose equally eccentric behaviours provide it a rich flavour.

The environment its story unfolds in is abundant in population yet each character appears to be living in their own little worlds, unaware of the numerous possibilities that are within their reach. The camera is operated with a kinetic flair and is never at rest. Editing keeps the two narratives separate yet similar in tone & feel, while music uplifts many moments with its finely chosen tracks.

Not all attempts at humour work though, for few fall flat or seem overdone while others are right on target. The lighthearted vibe is retained until the end and although a poignant feeling is evident nearly all the time, Wong never allows it to take charge of the story. Performances are spot-on as both the leads & the supporting actors play their part fittingly, with Faye Wong impressing the most of them all.

On an overall scale, Chungking Express is an oddball example of its genre that's as endearing as it is captivating, and is another wonderful entry in Wong Kar-wai's rich filmography. Finely directed, weirdly scripted, stylishly photographed, calmly edited, exquisitely scored & brilliantly performed, it may require more than one viewing to fully grasp the underlying themes & subtexts but even on first-viewing, it promises & delivers a whole lot of fun.

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