Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On DVD: "Chungking Express"

Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express is a movie I saw once (on VHS, no less), loved, and hadn’t seen since, so I was particularly keen to check out its new Blu-ray release, courtesy of the good folks at Criterion. First and foremost, it looks simply smashing on Blu; Criterion’s transfer beautifully captures the simultaneously lush and off-the-cuff handheld photography of Christopher Doyle and Lau Wai-Keung.

The film is rich, evocative, and often very funny; I remain fascinated with its peculiar structure, which follows one would-be love story for 42 minutes and then unexpectedly switches to another one for the last hour. The first mixes good-old fashioned longing with a slam-bang crime story, while the second is more grounded in personal, human comedy (with a touch of stalking thrown in).

There’s so much to like—the quirky characters, the charming performances, the various food metaphors, and the unexpectedly steamy love scene (accompanied by “What a Difference a Day Makes”)—that it’s easy to overlook what doesn’t; it does drag a bit in that second hour, and I hope you like “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, because you’re going to hear it a lot. But it’s such an easygoing little treat that you allow it some indulgences, and that lovely, bittersweet ending is just perfect.

“Chunking Express” is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

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