On Chungking Express and French New Wave
By: Jin Hen Lau
Wong Kar Wai, perhaps the most anomalous yet highly credited film maker out of Hong Kong, has made a name for himself by defying the conservative and formula heavy local movie industry. His works make the audience clearly conscious that they are watching a film where the narrative is not to be accepted at face value in the traditional sense.
Wong’s films are also instantly recognizable as it bears a conviction that they are personal artistic expressions that bears a stamp of personal authorship. In this sense he is one of the true remaining film “auteurs”. These two traits are highly reminiscent of what constitutes the “French new Wave” school of filmmaking in the 1950s to 60s.
Wong’s seminal work “Chungking Express” (1994) illustrates this point perfectly as it bears a lot of the technical and narrative traits of the French New Wave movement.
ChungKing Express(henceforth CKE) is a movie about 2 seemingly unrelated stories. From the opening scene we the audience are treated to an unconventionally shot chase scene that is extremely jerky in motion (strobing/step-printing), accompanied by Wu’s (Takeshi Kaneshiro) melancholy monologue about urban loneliness, which on face value has no relation to what is happening on screen at all.
From the opening scene we can see that CKE is technically an abbreviation from conventional films of the time in that it employs an unusually lush color palette accompanied by a unique cinematography that is claustrophobic and slightly over exposed. These all adheres to The French New Wave’s rule of breaking away from tradition.
On the narrative front, the two segments of CKE serves as deconstructions of two of the Hong Kong film industry’s most prominent and lucrative genres: The crime thriller and the romantic comedy.
The first segment, the crime thriller is in the end left unresolved as the antagonist ( in the conventional sense) Brigette Lin (the...
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