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What We Can Learn From "Chungking Express"

Chungking Express is a unique film that circumvents it's audience's expectations, while still taking them on a thrilling romantic journey. The film was directed by Wong Kar Wai, shot in Hong Kong, and released in 1994. In the film there are a number of interesting directorial decsions, a mainly one being the director's use of blurry shots.


Wong Kar Wai uses blurs mainly during action sequences, to great effect. The blur adds a hazy dreamlike state to scenes, while at the same time never fully obscuring the violent acts that are being captured. The director seems to be pulling the audience in two different directions, is this film meant to be gritty or dreamlike? The answer seems to be... both.


The beginning of the film takes the audience on a gritty journey. It follows a police officer recovering from a broken heart and the drug smuggler he "falls in love with." Wong Kar Wai makes the audience think this is the main story. Even going so far as to have police officer narrate over various scenes. On first watch one assumes that the film will follow the story of how this unlikely pair falls in love. The police officer even tells us that he falls in love with her! However, the real point of this story is to show a gritty, slightly more realistic love story. While some might claim that the two never actually fall for each other, or that the love story is was one sided (on the part of police officer). The story does present a brief moment of love.


This moment occurs when the drug smuggler calls and wishes the officer a happy birthday. Taken at face value this is a throwaway action, but in the contxt of the film, its groundbreaking. She didn't have to call him, and he didn't have to take care of her when she was drunk. The fact that they both took action showed that they had genuine affection for each other, perhaps even love. This moment is the pinnacle of a gritty love story. The characters do not admit their feelings for one another, and never fully form a relationship. Yet the actions they take based on their feelings have a very real impact on the other character.


On the flip side, we have the love story between the food stand girl and a different police officer (played by the amazing Tony Leung). This story is more like a dream scenario. The food stand girl develops a crush on the policeman. When the policeman's girlfriend breaks up with him, the food stand girl secretly begins implementing herself into his life. She breaks into his apartment and changes things little by little to fit her own sensibilities. After finding her in his apartment, the policeman, instead of breaking off contact with her, decides to ask her out! This is a prime example of how Wong Kar Wai gives us a dreamlike scenario.


In the normal world, someone breaking into an apartment would be a major breach of trust and could be taken as a sign of mental illness. Instead this action helps the policeman realize his own feelings for the girl! Of course, the two don't just easily get together. Instead the girl goes and gets a job as a flight attendant, and ends of meeting up with the man years later when visiting her hometown again. A truly idealistic coincidence. Wong Kar Wai makes this entire story seem more dreamlike then the former by using a trance inducing score, as well as colorful, bright lighting. Contrast this with the first story line, and we see that the opning scenes are much darker(but still colorful), with music that is more frantic than it is romantic.


If one pays attention during this film a number of techniques can be learned. Wong Kar Wai's use of blurry footage, contrasting storylines/ images, and overall dark dreamlike cinematography is just the tip of the iceberg. The more times this film is viewed, the more secrets are revealed.


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