Disorienting in the beginning. What’s going on? Who are these people and who should I focus on. This lady is wearing a blond wig and raincoat. Right? Why? No one seems t have a name. The café/diner owner seems to know some names though. Then I settled in and went with the circular winding flow of the first story…then Kar Wai does it again about halfway through. Another story, linked to the first one by location mostly, picks up and again it’s a bit disorienting at first. Are the characters linked somehow? yes and no. The themes are linked. The style is unique and pulls the strands together. These are two stories about love and loss with some Hong Kong gangster elements in the first one. On second viewing I noticed characters from the second story popping up in the first one briefly (reminds me of the great krzysztof kieslowski movies).
Every character in this movie is well drawn, well acted and piques the curiosity. The setting is primarily in a diner called “Midnight Express” and in and around a famous unique Hong Kong giant mall called “Chunking House” hence the name. There is also the apartment from the second story that also plays a big role. It’s a beautiful movie even if it is not shot in a particularly pretty location. The actors are good looking and feel just comfortable in this world, with their at times stilted, repetitive dialogue and deliver memorable performances. The whole thing, especially the second story has the feel of the inimitable Haruki Murakami’s books (personifying inanimate objects, the fixation on illogical hang ups, the curious female free-spirited mysterious characters, food, repetition,…). This is something I totally did not expect to see here but it was another aspect that added awesome layers to the film. It’s a really great and memorable piece of art and now that I “discovered” Kar Wai after this and In the Mood for Love, I cannot wait to check out the rest of his work.