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Film / Chungking Express

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That was the closest we ever got — just 0.01 cm between us. Fifty seven hours later, I fell in love with this woman.

Chungking Express (重慶森林) is a Hong Kong romantic crime dramedy film directed by Wong Kar-wai and released in 1994, with an Ensemble Cast including Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Its title is derived from Chungking Mansions, a building in Hong Kong where Wong grew up, and the food stand Midnight Express, located in Central, Hong Kong.

The movie can't be easily summarized, if only because it starts with one story which it abandons on the way to continue with another. Essentially, each plot follows a Hong Kong cop mulling over a recent breakup and his strange romance with a woman he's just met, but the two ultimately differ in tone and conclusion. Arguably, rather than trying to tell a story, it is a depiction of the cramped, hectic, neurosis-inducing, but strangely exciting contemporary life in the city.

Quentin Tarantino loved the film so much that he signed a deal with Miramax to start his own releasing company, Rolling Thunder, specifically to distribute it in the US.

Provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Geography: The film's location establishes this as in Tsim Sha Tsui as evidenced by the black-and-yellow livery of the subway station that bears its name (where the Train Escape takes place). It is also the location of the Chungking Mansions, of which this movie is named after. However, there are two inaccuracies of the setting. Firstly, Cop #663's apartment is established to be in the area as it is near the Midnight Express, but the Central Mid-Levels escalator is shown as next to the apartment, which is in the Central District, across Victoria Harbour. Not to mention that we see Cop #663's girlfriend go up the escalator to go to work when she should be going down (the escalator was built to allow residents an easier way to get home from the business areas of Hong Kong). Secondly, there are planes flying overhead; Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport was open at around this time, and the flight path for any plane taking off or leaving this airport will not take it over Tsim Sha Tsui.
  • Big Eater: The first cop eats his way through 30 cans of pineapple to get over his ex, and then several plates of miscellaneous food, when Brigitte Lin is sleeping.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Six shots are fired by Brigitte Lin's character, who is using a revolver. She plugs 2 guys going after her, each with two bullets, then reserves the last two for the drug dealer she has been working for.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Faye.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Earlier, a girl named May (not Qiwu's ex, the Midnight Express employee) left her job at the bar with another guy and is replaced by Faye. Later on, the Midnight Express owner eventually tells Cop #663 that May has come back and is working for him again after Faye leaves, and is also presumably single again.
    • Faye's failure to pay the electricity bill as requested by the owner has serious consequences when the power gets cut.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Cop #663 eventually notices all the changes made to his apartment and eventually realizes what has been happening.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Drug dealer Brigitte Lin's character is working for eventually gets executed by said character at the end of the first arc.
  • Companion Cube: After his breakup, Cop #663 spends his nights chatting with various objects around his apartments, like his shirts, his towels, and a giant Garfield plush.
  • Cringe Comedy: Qiwu's attempts to pick up women.
  • Even Beggars Won't Choose It: When the first cop, who has been collecting pineapple cans with a May 1 peremption date, in memory of his girlfriend dumping him, tries to give one to a beggar on the night of April 30, the beggar lobs it back at him. "It's past its sell by date! You keep it!"
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Eating 30 cans of pineapples is not going to do wonders for your stomach.
    • What happens when you neglect to pay the electricity bill? Break out the candles!
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Cop #223 can't take a hint if his life depended on it.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Faye's short hair has grown long when she returns as a stewardess.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Cop #663 is only known by his badge number. (Cop #223 introduces himself at the beginning as He Qiwu.)
  • Failed a Spot Check: Cop #663 really did not notice a large figure hidden under a towel in his own apartment.
  • Femme Fatale: Brigitte Lin's character.
  • Fetish: Cop #663 has a thing for air hostesses.
  • Genre Shift: It starts as an urban thriller and turns into a romantic comedy.
  • Girl Next Door: Faye.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: When Qiwu / Cop #223 tries to talk to Brigitte Lin at the bar, he tries to talk to her in several different languages.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: The only common elements in this film is the Midnight Express, the owner's continuous attempts to set up cops with his employees, and to a lesser extent, the employees May and Faye. In fact, May's departure and Qiwu's subsequent introduction of Faye immediately kicks off the second arc.
  • Heartbreak and Ananas
  • Hong Kong: Arguably the main character of the movie is the city itself.
  • Indy Ploy: The Brigitte Lin character stages an impromptu kidnapping to get some information.
  • In the Back: Brigitte Lin's character does this to the drug dealer who set her up.
  • Left the Background Music On: The first usage of "California Dreamin'," and the second usage of "What a Difference a Day Made."
  • Local Hangout: Both cops get their snacks and coffee at a local pit stop called the Midnight Express. It's the setting for much of the movie.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: We first see Faye from behind and the cop assumes she is a man because of her short hair. She later grows it out when we see her a year later as a flight attendant.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Faye. Childlike, wacky mannerisms? Check. Idealistic and free spirited, to Cop #663's broken heart and outward stuffed shirt? Check. Tendency towards petty crime? Check. Amazingly cute? Very much check.
  • Maybe Ever After: Brigitte Lin's character and the first cop. We never find out if they got anywhere, but our last impression of Brigitte Lin is her wishing him a happy birthday, over the answering machine — perhaps she was warming to him?
  • No Name Given: We never learn the name of Brigitte Lin's character, or as mentioned, Cop #663.
  • Sexy Stewardess: The second cop's former girlfriend. His next girlfriend emulates her and becomes one as well.
    • In a flashback scene, we see his then girlfriend do her safety instruction routine over the usual voice recording ("emergency exits are located at the front and back..."), while at his place, and with her top off. It's an obvious turn-on for him.
  • Shipper on Deck: The store manager gives people advice about their love lives, and even hustles all the other employees away when Cop #663 approaches, so Faye will be alone with him.
  • Sleep Cute: Cop #633 and Faye.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Faye steals the second cop's house keys and sneaks into his flat. She makes a habit of moving his stuff around, buying him new things, just to see whether he'll notice. She also inspects his bed with a magnifying glass for evidence of sexual activity.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Brigitte Lin's character.
  • Train Escape: Brigitte Lin's character, as she's being chased by vengeful drug dealers.
  • Tsundere: Faye is a Type A for Cop #633.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Qiwu throws up 30 cans of pineapples he has been eating.
  • Word Salad Title: The title blends together the name of Chungking Mansions, a cheap apartment complex in Kowloon, and that of the Midnight Express pit stop.