Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chungking Express

There are some movies that numb you, some leave you awestruck by its novelty, some inspire you, some make you laugh your gut out, some make you cry. But, I had never fallen in love with a movie. Not until I saw Chungking Express. This is not a critique of the movie in any way. This is my love letter to Chungking Express. Very few things, let alone movies have given me the pure inherent joy, as much as this movie did. So much beauty is packed into even the minutest of frame that you want to choke yourself with happiness. It is very difficult to describe what it feels like. It is an awful personal experience. Quentin Tarantino, once said in his own inimitable style with respect to this movie, “This movie made me cry. Not because the movie was sad, but, because I was amazed how much I could love any movie.”

The movie begins rather gloomily to a lovelorn cop, and takes us through protagonist’s same predicament in the second story too, but there is an unmistakable strong thread of hope that runs through both the stories. Hope is really an amazing thing. It is free and comes in many forms. For Cop 223 it came in the forms of Pineapple cans. He broke up with his girlfriend on the 1st April and gave 30 days to the relationship by purchasing a pineapple can that expires on the 1st May, each day of the month. If she doesn’t come by the 1st of May,the relationship would expire as would the pineapple cans, he believes. Through his soliloquy, he questions whether every tangible or intangible thing in this world comes with an expiry date? That is one question, that raises some circuituitous answers.

She doesn’t come to him and thus, on 1st May, he eats all the pineapple cans and consequently becomes sick. Relationships, if turned to stomach disorder, should be flushed down the toilet. He finally decides to fall out of love by falling in love (A debatable concept, but, won’t go into that for now!).

Even the protagonist of the second story (cop 663) keeps hoping and waiting for his love to turn up. Foolishly wishing she would leap out of the closet and surprise him. If only wishes structured the outcome of things in life. Meanwhile he keeps meeting the shy May at the Express restaurant, his past doesn’t let go of him to even think about the present. May harbors feeling for him, but their story doesn’t venture via the normal boy-meet-girl caper. Infact, almost bowing to an idealistic definition of love, she just keeps him happy without even being with him. That is where Chungking Express packs a punch, it goes to the idealistic realms of love without being corny. She tidies his apartment, as if the soaps, towels and goldfish are the only way of stepping into the inaccessible 663’s life, and she is happy doing that. She represents the change in his life. In truly one of the movie’s most ironic and poignant scenes, the cop 663 stands in front of the closet hoping to be surprised by his girlfriend. But, nothing of the sort happens. Instead, we see May hiding in the closet. Dejected on not getting any reply, the cop turns back. How often have we been near to love only to turn our back against it?

The movie scoops out dollops of realism moments before its ending. When the cop 663 expresses his desire of dating her, May agrees. She reaches the place of the date and is about to meet the cop 663. About to have an interesting conversation with the man, whose inanimated life she has changed. From a distance. Would the conversation be interesting? She is shy, what would she speak? Does she have butterflies in stomach? Does she see herself or 663? Or, herself and 663? Together? What does she see and think. None of the above. She sees the name of the restaurant she is headed towards, and possibly a beginning of a new life for her. She sees the name of the restaurant emblazoned in golden colours – California. It is raining. She sees the water droplets caressing her most beautiful dream, as if they were her messengers. Now, she sees herself and decides. Obviously, Wong Kar Wai doesn’t sketch the details for us, but the close up of the the california for few seconds is enough to get what is being said. She decides amidst all this, she has been missing herself. She wants to love 663, but, not by compromising herself. She decides its not time. Not yet. She leaves something for the cop 663.

True to her promise, May returns to cop 663. In a fitting display of roles reversal, he is working in the Express restaurant in the same fashion May used to (the loud california dreamin’ song blaring on). May walks in carrying with herself not only a calm satisfaction of having giving this relationship the requisite time, but also living her the life way she always wanted to, so as to carry no regretfull What-ifs of the past. The destination of the economic class boarding pass is unknown. But, it has two passengers. In love.

P.S : I have never believed and will never believe in quantitative estimation of a movie. However, this time I will make an exception.
Rating – 6/5.

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