Wong Kar-Wai is one of my favourite filmmakers. Other than his masterpiece In the Mood for Love, I also appreciate Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express. I love how most of his films have a distinct time and place (most are set in Hong Kong), but evoke universal experiences such as urban isolation. While In the Mood for Love has a distinct mood of nostalgia and captures a bygone era, Chungking Express is firmly planted in present-day Hong Kong- a bustling city teeming with people and pulsating with bright lights. The frenetic camerawork and saturated colors give a sense of energy as well as claustrophobia. A common thread between the two films is the existential ennui that pervades them. It is ironic that in overcrowded Hong Kong, though personal space is frequently encroached upon and one never seems to be alone, the sense of alienation is stronger than ever. Perhaps this is emblematic of all modern cities?
As with almost all of Wong’s films, the soundtrack is superb. The most iconic song from the film, for me, is ‘California Dreaming’. This classic, catchy tune promises an escape from her mundane life for one of the characters. California is a mythical land of open roads, beaches, sunshine and freedom; a place that idealistic youth dream of. It is fitting that she eventually becomes a flight attendant, earning a ticket out of Hong Kong and paving her path towards California.