Wong Kar-Wai double feature screens at UWM Union Theatre
Fallen Angels and Chungking Express, two films from Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, screen at UWM Union Theatre this weekend. One of the most influential directors still working today, he is best known for his 2000 film In the Mood for Love, which chronicles the infidelity between two couples living in close proximity.
Lost love, loneliness and fleeting happiness are dominant themes in Wong’s work. Despite being all about lovesickness, Fallen Angels and Chungking Express are two of Wong’s sexiest, most vibrant films.
Chungking Express is slower, more sensual and more hypnotic than Fallen Angels, although both were conceived at the same time by Wong. While writing what was to become Chungking Express, he realized the film was becoming too long and split the story into two features.
Fallen Angels is brash, bold and has such frenetic editing that at times it borders on the violent. The film has two stories: one follows an assassin, Wong Chi-Ming, and his unnamed female partner. They rarely see each other, and it is perhaps because of this that she falls in love with Chi-Ming. She haunts his regular bar, sits in his usual chair and pines for him while leaning dejectedly on the jukebox, a cigarette dangling from her lips. The other story concerns a man, Ho Chi Moo, who stopped speaking as a child after eating expired pineapple. He breaks into businesses after they’ve closed and terrorizes any potential customers, including one man who is the unlucky recipient of a rather aggressive haircut and more ice cream than he can ever hope to eat (but he still has to pay for it).
These sort of eccentric, lovelorn characters occupy Fallen Angels and Chungking Express, but precedence is given to cinematic style rather than plot. In Fallen Angels, lush slow-motion sequences are juxtaposed with rapid-fire images of hitmen cruising on motorcycles, cool as cucumbers. Black-and-white sequences unexpectedly punctuate the neon nightscape of Hong Kong, only to revert back to color in a split-second.
Chungking Express is a bit mellower. It also tells two related but ultimately separate stories, this time about two cops. One, Hong Kong Cop 223, is still reeling from his April 1 breakup with his girlfriend May. He chooses to wait until May 1 before moving on, and spends the entire month eating tins of pineapple that will expire on the fateful day. Never before has a tin of almost expired pineapple been so romantic.
There are many similarities between the two films – in plot, structure, even characters. But Chungking Express is more about lovesickness, about the paradox of being alone in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It deftly captures the unexpected pleasure to be found when love, with all its weirdness and messiness and its capacity to make you crazy, saunters up to the local snack bar.
Chungking Express screens on Friday, March 30, at 10 p.m. and on Sunday, April 1, at 5 p.m. Fallen Angels, in new 35mm print, screens on Saturday, March 31 at 10 p.m., and on Sunday, April 1 at 3 p.m.
For more information on UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre, click here.