In the scene above, Takeshi Kaneshiro’s character, police cop 223 (although he keeps asking “any messages for 368”), runs up an escalator that’s not moving. Notice the tilt of the camera angled just so you can see up the extremely long, 2 tiered flights of steps as he runs. The handheld unsteadiness also constantly blurs the peripheral edges but the center remains mostly in focus. You see him running all the way into the center, following him as he becomes really hard to discern, a smudged Aniki Jin.

In the story, he just caught a criminal and was about to call his ex-girlfriend to tell her the good news. Unfortunately, it’s a man that picks up. He realizes that any hope of clinging onto his previous, unsuccessful relationship is now over. He screams “Tomokazu Miura, I’ll kill you!” as he runs up. Previously, he reminisced about the owner of the Midnight Express takeaway thinking that his ex, May, looked like Momoe Yamaguchi. They broke up with May saying that he’s more and more unlike Tomokazu Miura. The two Japanese names being those for these 2 famous drama actors in the Akai series of dramas. They also had an off screen romance as well during the late 70s.

Kaneshiro is fluent in Mandarin, so all the parts where he had to speak well, whenever he revealed his innermost thoughts as a voiceover, he spoke in Mandarin. All the extraneous, vacant rubbish he spouts is in Cantonese, probably to make him seem more believable as a Hong Konger. His Cantonese is horrendous. His acting isn’t far off but it’s exactly this that is testament to Wong Kar Wai’s genius.

Wong shoots scripts on the go. He doesn’t have everything mapped out, sometimes nothing at all. He probably shoots more scenes that are unused than scenes that are. Turns out his best character is always one that he knows inextricably well. If Woody Allen’s Manhattan is a loving showcase of NYC, then Chungking Express is surely Wong’s ode to HK. The tight, cramped spaces, the noise, the fast pace, the messy, dirty cesspool of sorts that it is. Hong Kong is the best actor in Chungking Express. The real actors just fill up the spaces but it’s in the negative space, which is Hong Kong, where all the emotions and the feelings are laid bare. Like that staircase, a tunnel of dread, of emotional distance; a one way street going nowhere because what you longed for is no more.

Every scene in Chungking Express feels like that, where the architecture and landscape of the place seemingly have more emotion than the humanity that exists within it. Or perhaps we simply transfer the feelings we observe onscreen onto the inhuman, personifying them. This shift somehow amplifies the feelings, making them more miserable than most, because ultimately, the things we think are sad aren’t sad at all, we’re just trying to forget how sad we were in the first place.