Chungking Express

Don't get the wrong idea – meaning nonstop action – just because this feature from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai is being released in America under Quentin Tarantino's stewardship. It's the Q man's fixation with Jean-Luc Godard's new wave visual riffs, not blood and guts, that drew him to this haunting, hallucinatory romance. Two Hong Kong cops, No. 223 (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and No. 663 (Tony Leung Chin-Wai), are dumped by their girlfriends and make fetishes of the things their ladies leave behind. Both cops encounter new women. For No. 223, it's a drug smuggler in a blond wig (Brigitte Lin) who falls asleep in his bed while he stares at whatever movies are playing on the tube. For No. 663, it's a counter girl (Faye Wang) who secretly cleans his apartment while listening to endless replays of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'."

By now you can surely tell if this Wong's for you or an acquired taste best left to the cultists. Either decision is supportable. Still, there is no mistaking Wong's talent. His hypnotic images of love and loss finally wear down your resistance as seemingly discordant sights and sounds coalesce into a radiant, crazy quilt that can make you laugh in awe at its technical wizardry in one scene and pierce your heart in the next. Chungking Express is pulp, Hong Kong style – exasperating and exhilarating.

From The Archives Issue 729: March 7, 1996