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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
  • Episode excerpt from the British television series Moving Pictures featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle
  • U.S. theatrical trailer

Chungking Express


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Wong Kar-wai
Starring: Brigitte Lin Ching-hsia, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, Faye Wong
1994 | 102 Minutes | Licensor: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #453 | Out of print
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: November 25, 2008
Review Date: November 9, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

The whiplash, double-pronged Chungking Express is one of the defining works of nineties cinema and the film that made Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai an instant icon. Two heartsick Hong Kong cops (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Tony Leung), both jilted by ex-lovers, cross paths at the Midnight Express take-out restaurant stand, where the ethereal pixie waitress Faye (Faye Wong) works. Anything goes in Wong's gloriously shot and utterly unexpected charmer, which cemented the sex appeal of its gorgeous stars and forever turned canned pineapple and the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" into tokens of romantic longing.

Forum members rate this film 8.5/10

 

Discuss the film and DVD here   


PICTURE

Criterion presents Wong Kar-waiís Chungking Express in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 (which is the directorís preferred aspect ratio according to the booklet) on this dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

I donít recall the image on the Buena Vista DVD and donít own it, but I have a feeling the image on here is far better than that previous release. The Criterion transfer presents a rather gorgeous looking picture, presenting a generally sharp image (though the style of the film sort of gives it a bit of a soft edge) with bright, nicely saturated colours and strong blacks. The transfer keeps the filmís grain yet has very little in the way of damage.

Itís an impressive looking transfer and Iím more than happy with it as Iím sure many others will. Criterion is also releasing the film on Blu-ray and considering how good it looks in standard definition Iím quite excited to see it in high-definition (as of writing this I have not seen the Blu-ray disc yet.) But even if you are not equipped for Blu-ray yet youíll still find the transfer here quite pleasing.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Criterion presents the film with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. Itís a fairly active soundtrack, probably strongest during the first half of the film where the characters move through the busy settings, the background noise from the street settings coming through clearly in the back speakers. Activity moves beautifully between the speakers when appropriate and sounds natural. Music has great range and beautifully fills out the environment, and while dialogue sticks mostly to the front speakers itís clean and natural as well.

Itís a surprisingly active and crisp track, working perfectly for the film.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

This is a fairly big release for Criterion so I was a little let down with what we do get here in the way of supplements, only getting a few items.

There is an audio commentary by Tony Rayns, recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2008. I enjoy Raynsí tracks overall (I especially liked his track for Vampyr) but I found this one to be just an average track. Rayns thankfully keeps everything going and while I assume he has notes it doesnít really sound like heís reading from them, though at times it sounds like heís trying to keep up with his own train of thought. He gives a decent analysis of the film and offers some interesting facts about the production, like how the original story was to have the four characters crossing paths constantly throughout (shooting schedules didnít allow that,) and also gets into the careers of the actors, even the minor ones. He also enjoys pointing out locations and some of the unique features of Hong Kong (such as the escalator that plays a fairly big role in the film.) Itís informative and Iím glad I listened to it, but I canít say it really added that much more to my appreciation of the film and in all I was a little let down by it.

Unfortunately the only other big feature comes from a 1996 episode of Moving Pictures, presenting an interview with Wong Kar-wai and director of photography, Christopher Doyle. The two tour the locations used in Chungking Express and talk about their work, including what would have been their newest film at the time, Fallen Angels, talking a lot about their style. Itís interesting but runs only a 12-minutes and offers very little in the end.

The disc then closes with the U.S. Theatrical Trailer, which, as one might expect from a Miramax ad campaign, doesnít really do a good job of capturing the film.

A booklet included with the release contains an essay by Amy Taubin, who gives an analysis and synopsis of the film and how it represents Hong Kong at the time. Itís a good read and may actually be the best part of the release.

Considering that it is a bigger title I guess I expected a little more. Iím thankful Criterion didnít feel the need to pull Quentin Tarantino in on this release (it was a favourite of Tarantinoís, was released in North America through his Rolling Thunder Pictures, and the previous DVD had his name and face pasted all over it like he made it) and went the route of a scholarly track, but I guess I felt there was more out there. It just feels like a very small release for the film.

6/10

CLOSING

I thought the commentary was okay and worth listening to but the supplements overall are slim and disappointing. Thankfully the transfer is up to Criterionís standards and is quite pleasing (Iím looking forward to the Blu-ray) and for this aspect alone I still think the release is worth picking up.


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