453 Chungking Express

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Martha
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453 Chungking Express

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Nov 20, 2004 12:45 pm

Chungking Express

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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.

Special Features

- New, restored high-definition digital transfer
- Remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack supervised by director Wong Kar-wai
- Audio commentary by noted Asian cinema critic Tony Rayns
- U.S. theatrical trailer
- Episode excerpt from the BBC Television series Moving Pictures, featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by critic Amy Taubin

ALSO AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY

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clutch44
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#2 Post by clutch44 » Sun Nov 21, 2004 1:42 pm

Martha wrote:When I first saw this film 10 years ago, it literally changed my life. Suddenly, my perception of what films could be was radically, permanently altered. I spend most of the 100 minutes it ran in tears, truly unable to handle the beauty, humor, and spontaneity that I was witnessing. It totally overwhelmed me.

Watching it today, 10 years later, I first see the flaws. Takeshi Kaneshiro, though I still think he's possibly the most adorable man ever born, gives what could be his worst performance, full of mugging and theatrical sighs. Brigitte Lin has nothing to do. While I sort of like TK pining and the pineapple stuff, the first story is fundamentally weak and the connection between the two characters is there narratively but nowhere else-- we really feel nothing between them.

That said, the second part is still just as astonishing as it was a decade ago. From the moment we see her, Faye Wong brings the film to life. She's adorable and wary and unpredictable and completely convincing. It's a treat to be allowed to watch the performance; I can't think of another one that strikes me as so wonderfully real and eager. And Tony Leung, as always, is prefect. His ability to act using only his eyes fills scenes that would otherwise be without meaning (see part 1 of the film for examples) with incredible depth. Only he can talk to soap and makes it moving. Christopher Doyle's work in this part of the film is inspired, as well-- for whatever reason, everything is more lively and more assured and more joyful here. And I still cry both times "Dreams" begins.

I agree the second story was definitely the better of the two; Faye Wong's performance is awesome. I also have to agree with Tarantino that every time I hear California Dreamin', I have a picture of Faye Wong in my mind. I'm a big fan of Wong Kar Wai's films with In The Mood For Love and Days of Being Wild being my personal favorites. As for a film changing my perception of what film could be, I was very moved the first time I saw Cinema Paradiso. The screening of the spliced film after the funeral was very moving for me and still is each time I see it.

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#3 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Nov 22, 2004 11:50 am

Martha wrote:When I first saw this film 10 years ago, it literally changed my life. Suddenly, my perception of what films could be was radically, permanently altered.

I had much the same reaction when I first saw this movie. It was my first exposure to Wong Kar-Wai and afterwards I knew I had to track down and see every film this guy made.

I think pretty much everyone agrees that the first story is weaker than the second one and I think this is due in large part to the warm, romantic, almost screwball comedy, at times, feeling that the second story evokes. You have all those funny moments when Faye Wong's character breaks into Tony Leung's apartment and cleans it or when she "accidentally" runs into him on the street. I also love the use of "What A Difference A Day Makes" as sung by... is it Ella Fitzgerald? I always forget. I also think that the second story is stronger because of the chemistry between the two leads: does it get any better than Tony Leung and Faye Wong? As you get to know them you want so desperately for them to hook-up by the film's end. Leung also has such sympathetic eyes and an interesting screen presence that makes so likable and watchable. And lastly, I absolutely adore the final scene with its possibilites that Wong just leaves hanging and begging for a sequel. But it works much better as is -- that way everyone comes away from the movie with their own ideas of what happens to the characters next.

To this day, this is still my favourite Wong Kar-Wai film... even moreso than In The Mood For Love, which is probably the better film but I just don't love it or watch it nearly as much as I do Chungking Express.

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#4 Post by dvdane » Mon Nov 22, 2004 1:22 pm

I also love the use of "What A Difference A Day Makes" as sung by... is it Ella Fitzgerald?

Dinah Washington :)

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#5 Post by Lemdog » Tue Nov 23, 2004 9:12 pm

I think pretty much everyone agrees that the first story is weaker than the second one and I think this is due in large part to the warm, romantic, almost screwball comedy, at times, feeling that the second story evokes.

Agreed, but I will also give some credit to Brigitte Lin I'm not really sure why I liked her performance. It could have been that I just liked the character that WKW created, and Lin just filled in the spot. Tony amzaing as always. Overall I still prefer In the Mood for Love with Chungking Express in second.

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#6 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:54 am

Lemdog wrote:Agreed, but I will also give some credit to Brigitte Lin I'm not really sure why I liked her performance. It could have been that I just liked the character that WKW created, and Lin just filled in the spot.

Definitely. No arguments here. She certainly does a good job playing the mysterious, femme fatale role. I really love her bored indifference (or is that exhaustion?) when Takeshi Kaneshiro hits on her in the bar.

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#7 Post by igor s. » Wed Nov 24, 2004 11:17 pm

what a fun sweet film. so endearing to watch; both playful and sincere, it touches all of us in all the inexplainable loves labours and losses that we all, in one time or time to come, experience. the stories act together, perhaps both in unison and slight conflict, to unravel in hopes passion for what's gone and can never be again. a story about moving on: acceptance of the world long past and the unexperienced world at precense, chungking express does not tell so much as welcome us into its world, and for some, ourselves. very much enjoyed whilst the heart beats its understanding.

all, all which can never be said of the r1 dvd cover art. i am appalled.

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#8 Post by justinbaker2 » Thu Nov 25, 2004 12:26 am

I like the way this film builds up the characterization through consumer products. The pineapple cans, the emotionally-charged dishtowel, the import goods Brigitte Lin is using for drug smuggling, the crying apartment, and most of all the image of Faye Wong dancing around with a Coke can prominently held outstretched.

I have a feeling WKW is saying something about contemporary HK society drowning in western consumerism, particularly with the numerous playings of California Dreaming and Faye Wong's departure to California. I've never quite been able to wrap my mind around a definative opinion on what that really means, but I get that impression every time I watch the film.

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#9 Post by scalesojustice » Tue Aug 15, 2006 10:08 am

i just caught this last night in my continuing interest in wong kar-wai. first off, i sometimes find it odd watch films from the early 90s, as i instantly find them dated and out of style. however, that is probably due to the fact that i was actually alive then, as oppose to the films from the 1960s and 70s (and earlier) are already deemed "old," as i wasn't alive to experience the time. thus, i don't relate or connect with films from later time periods the way i do watch films that are now 10 or 20 years old. it actually takes me back to my time and i actually feel that they are older rather than know they are. when the characters mention 1994 in the film, it hit me that it was 12 years old. i couldn't believe it.

despite the contemporary moments in his visual style, there are many moments when the visuals transcend the time period. the opening shots of the sky, the slow motion foreground/accelerated background and the shot of the stewardess shirt hanging on the line as the plane flies over head were just a few of my favorite moments that hint at the work that is to come from Wong.

the difference between the two stories is virtually night and day in my summation. i found that the first story was thematically stronger (i loved the expiration analogy), while the second story was much more charming and fun to watch.

justinbaker2 wrote:I have a feeling WKW is saying something about contemporary HK society drowning in western consumerism, particularly with the numerous playings of California Dreaming and Faye Wong's departure to California. I've never quite been able to wrap my mind around a definative opinion on what that really means, but I get that impression every time I watch the film.

i found this to be a great insight and something i didn't connect with right away. i first saw the objects as representations of absent love, but i didn't consider why these objects took the place of said love. perhaps there is more to this. i've had a few discussions with people about the social themes within Wong's work, and the evolution of hong kong seem to always be in the forefront of wong's mind. but the emotional objects, not to mention the presence of McDonalds in the first story, seem to represent Hong Kong's social growing pains, though i know little about its history. the westernization of Japan also "springs" to mind from Ozu's Late Spring, which features a similar theme.

on a side note, the California Dreaming really started to wear on me, however, but the remade Cranberries' song made me smile.

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#10 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Aug 16, 2006 3:13 am

Does any other film capture what it is to be young, lonely and lovesick in the city better than this film?

I'll always have a fond spot for this film. I don't know why, but everytime I watch the film it fills my stomache with butterfly, like that of a crush (maybe it just how adorable Faye Wong is?). Sure, In The Mood For Love is better crafted (I personally prefer 2046), and I guess this film has it's flaws, but the overall picture and feeling it evokes in me makes me overlook any, and it makes it easily my favorite WKW, and one of my absolute favorite films.
Last edited by Cold Bishop on Tue Oct 16, 2007 9:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#11 Post by Mr Buttle » Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:08 pm

I will also give some credit to Brigitte Lin I'm not really sure why I liked her performance

When Brigitte Lin is being a femme fatale at the bar, the barmaid says to her "Why do you always wear a raincoat?" and Brigitte replies "I think it will rain." I mean, that's just cool.

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#12 Post by Michael » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:00 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:Does any other film capture what it is to be young, lonely and lovesick in the city better than this film?

Yes, for me it's Mala Noche.

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#13 Post by zedz » Wed Oct 17, 2007 5:23 pm

Michael wrote: Yes, for me it's Mala Noche.

I do believe you're smitten!

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#14 Post by Michael » Wed Oct 17, 2007 6:21 pm

zedz wrote:
Michael wrote: Yes, for me it's Mala Noche.

I do believe you're smitten!

Absolutely. Very much on the personal level. I never knew there was a movie that mirrored my early 20s until last week. I was hopelessly romantic, lovesick, living alone in NYC. And Tim Streeter could be my twin brother. I looked exactly like him when I was the same age as him - tall, skinny, thick hair, pale skin. And we wore the same clothes! I was grungy back then. And his character in Mala Noche falls for latinos. Same as me but very glad to found the one who I'm still with for a decade now. Emotions and thoughts of the film sound so much like me - even my lover who watched it the other night said that's the film I'd have made if I was a filmmaker. I just love, LOVE the style of the film - wonderfully intimate and too beautiful that I'm still caught in its spell, like a beetle in scratchy midnight black amber.

Don't get me wrong. Wong Kar Wai makes some of the most gorgeous movies about lonely, lovesick young dreamers ever. Chungking Express didn't do much for me but I get shaken up every time I watch The Hand.

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#15 Post by myrnaloyisdope » Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:18 am

I think this film more than any other got me seriously into Hong Kong film and culture. I fell in love with Faye Wong and Tony Leung became my then favorite actor. From there I read Hong Kong Babylon, and even travelled to HK on a pilgrimmage for VCDs and DVDs.

That being said it has been a few years since I have seen the film, but I expect it would probably still resonate pretty strongly with me even if it was primarily a nostalgia thing.

As for Wong-Kar Wai, Days of Being Wild is my favorite, and maybe my favorite HK film. Chungking Express is probably second along with As Tears Go By(I can't help it if I love to watch Jacky Cheung freak out).[/b]

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#16 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:44 pm

Despite how surprising the lack of involvement from the director, I am always pleased to see an academic commentary on a recent feature

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#17 Post by Cronenfly » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:50 pm

Well, Wong's certainly made his mark on the tech specs; I haven't heard of the movie being shown in any other ratio than 1.85:1 until now (the recent R3 Alto DVD release, which I thought was a restoration/new transfer straight from Jet Tone, was 1.85:1, not the CC "director's requested" 1.66:1).

Agreed with domino that it's good to see a scholarly commentary on a recent film; Rayns will be up to the task I'm sure.
Last edited by Cronenfly on Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#18 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:50 pm

I kind of admire the fact that he supervised the trailer but didn't shoehorn any other involvement in. The interview is even conducted by Rayns, which sounds like it'll pull the whole package together nicely. I'm excited about this release.

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#19 Post by Cronenfly » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:53 pm

And given Wong's deleted scene commentary (or lack thereof) on the CC In the Mood for Love, it's probably just as well he stayed on the sidelines.

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Re: 453 Chungking Express

#20 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:09 pm

- Episode excerpt from the British television series Moving Pictures featuring Wong and cinematographer Christopher Doyle

The Moving Pictures segment from 1996 is quite a nice inclusion since it features the pair taking a trip around Chungking Mansions (Wong reveals the place where he found the music to play during Brigitte Lin's illegal immigrant sequence) and interviewing each other in front of the fast food restaurant from the film.
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#21 Post by sidehacker » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:30 pm

Michael wrote:
Cold Bishop wrote:Does any other film capture what it is to be young, lonely and lovesick in the city better than this film?

Yes, for me it's Mala Noche.

Great pick! Van Sant's film actually does have a lot in common with Chungking Express, thematically and aesthetically. Possible double feature.

Too bad there's not any Faye Wong-related extras. There's got to be a special on her career out there somewhere.

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#22 Post by Tom Hagen » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:36 pm

Criterion wrote:Chungking Express is presented in the director’s requested aspect ratio of 1.66:1.

Do we have another OAR quarterback controversy on our hands?

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#23 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:38 pm

I'm sure it's opened up and not cropped, so it shouldn't be an issue (Famous Last Words)

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#24 Post by zombeaner » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:52 pm

I am very excited about this, I have the R3 edition and it is beautiful. I assume it will be the same transfer. I'm a bit disappointed about the lack of extras, but that won't stop me from picking this up, even though this doesn't seem to justify the high-tier price tag.

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Re: 453 Chungking Express

#25 Post by Cold Bishop » Fri Aug 15, 2008 5:40 pm

I'd wait for the Blu-Ray.

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