Chungking Express (1994)

1h 24m / PG-13 / Comedy, Crime, Drama

Every day, Cop 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) buys a can of pineapple with an expiration date of May 1, symbolizing the day he’ll get over his lost love. He’s also got his eye on a mysterious woman in a blond wig (Brigitte Lin), oblivious of the fact she’s a drug dealer. Cop 663 (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) is distraught with heartbreak over a breakup. But when his ex drops a spare set of his keys at a local cafe, a waitress (Faye Wong) lets herself into his apartment and spruces up his life.

Chungking Express marked a turning point for the career of director Wong Kar-wai. Most (but not all) of his early directing work was in line with the wave of crime action-dramas that followed in the wake of John Woo’s success. In fact, you can see the moment that everything turned – the freeze-frame when Cop 223 brushes by Faye. From that point on, the soundtrack changes, the cinematography changes (the two credited cinematographers mostly each worked on one story only), and the impression of the movie, the vibe, changes. Subtly but significantly. And after this, his movies broadly go from “crime story with romantic elements” to “romance with some other elements.” His adept sense for human relationships and the pain of both connection and loss comes to the fore. It’s a landmark for Hong Kong cinema and for the world of film in general.