Chungking Express 重庆森林(1995)
Directed by Wong Kar-wai
Chungking Express is a 1994 Hong Kong romantic mystery comedy-drama film written and directed by Wong Kar-wai. The film consists of two stories told in sequence, each about a lovesick Hong Kong policeman mulling over his relationship with a woman. The first story stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as a cop who is obsessed with the break-up of his relationship with a woman named May and his platonic encounter with a mysterious drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin). The second stars Tony Leung as a police officer who is roused from his gloom over the loss of his flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) by the attentions of a quirky snack bar worker (Faye Wong). The film depicts a paradox in that even though the characters live in densely-packed Hong Kong, they are mostly lonely and live in their own inner worlds.
The Chinese title translates to "Chungking Jungle", referring to the metaphoric concrete jungle of the city, as well as to Chungking Mansions in Tsim Sha Tsui, where much of the first part of the movie is set. The English title refers to Chungking Mansions and the Midnight Express food stall where Faye works.
The film comprises two different stories, told one after the other, each about a romance involving a policeman. Except for a brief moment when the first story ends and the second begins, the two stories do not interconnect. However, the three main characters from the second story each momentarily appear during the first.
The first story concerns Taiwan-born cop He Qiwu, also known as Cop 223. Qiwu's girlfriend May broke up with him on 1 April (April Fool's Day). His birthday is 1 May and he chooses to wait for May for a month before moving on. Every day he buys a tin of pineapple with an expiration date of 1 May. By the end of this time, he feels that he will either be rejoined with his love or that it will have expired forever. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman in a blonde wig (played by Brigitte Lin) tries to survive in the drug underworld after a smuggling operation goes sour.
On 1 May, Qiwu, looking for romance, approaches the woman in the blonde wig at a bar (the Bottoms Up Club). However, she is exhausted and falls asleep in a hotel room, leaving him to watch old movies alone all night and order take-out food. He shines her shoes before he leaves her sleeping on the bed. She leaves in the morning and shoots the drug baron (played by Thom Baker) who had set her up. Qiwu goes jogging and receives a message from her on his pager wishing him a happy birthday. He then visits his usual snack food store where he collides with a new staff member, Faye. At this point, a new story begins.
In the second story, the unnamed Cop 663 is similarly dealing with a breakup, this time with a flight attendant. He meets Faye, the new girl at the snack bar. She secretly falls for him. The flight attendant waits for the cop around the snack bar, and finds out he is on his day off. She leaves a letter for the snack bar owner to give to the cop. Everyone in the snack bar reads the letter, which is assumed to be the flight attendant's way of telling the cop that their relationship is over. The envelope also has a spare set of keys to the cop's apartment.
Faye uses the keys to frequently break into his apartment by day to redecorate and "improve" his living situation. She finally tells him of the letter but he keeps delaying taking it or even reading it. Gradually, her ploys help him to cheer up, and he eventually realizes that Faye likes him and arranges a date at the restaurant "California" (an actual place in Lan Kwai Fong at the time). Faye, however, never shows up for the date, and the snack bar's owner, who is her cousin, goes to the restaurant to tell the cop that Faye left for California. Standing the cop up after a last-minute decision to see the world before settling down, she leaves him a boarding pass drawn on a paper napkin postdated one year later.
In the last scene, Faye, now a flight attendant, returns to Hong Kong. She finds that the cop has bought the snack bar and is converting it into a restaurant. He asks her to stay for the grand opening in a couple days, but she says she does not know if she can. 663 then asks if she can send him a postcard if she leaves, but she says he wouldn't read it anyway. As Faye's about to leave, he gets the boarding pass she gave him a year ago, wrinkled and water-stained, and asks if anyone will accept it. She doubts it and writes him up a new one. Faye asks him where he wants to go with the boarding pass, and 663 says he'll go wherever she wants to take him. Their future remains ambiguous.