The movie Chungking Express was produced in Hong Kong in 1994. It is written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, while Chan Yi-Kan acts as the producer. The film narrates the story of two policemen who have lost their girlfriends. The opening scene introduces the viewer to the main characters and the location where most of the action takes place, the Chungking Express (Chungking Express). The skillful use of the camera perspective and movements, as well as clever lighting, helps the director to deliver a fascinating and enchanting cinematic experience. The opening sequence keeps the viewer glued to the screen.
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In this paper, the author will analyze the opening sequence of Chungking Express. The stylistic devices, including the sound effects, mise-en-scene, and the film’s cinematography will be reviewed.
The Use of Sound Effects in the Opening Sequence of Chungking Express
The first part of the movie is dominated by music from Dennis Brown. The reggae hit, Things in Life, features prominently in this sequence (Chungking Express). The movie makes use of an infusion of moments that reinforce the idea of the inevitability of change and the irreversibility of time. However, it is the song Baroque by Michael Galasso that is used in the opening scene to create a contrast between the emotions of the young policeman and his commitment to the relationship with his girlfriend (Corrigan, White, and Mazaj 74). The opening scene does not feature a lot of sound and the dialogue is rather short.
Mise-en-Scene in the Opening Sequence of Chungking Express
The scene starts with Cop 223 inadvertently bumping into a woman as he runs after a criminal. The streets around the Chungking building are crowded. The time of the occurrence is vividly shown by a close-up shot of the clock. The time is shown as 9.00pm (Chungking Express). The cut is an extreme close-up shot. At this point, the movie frame comes to a pause and the voiceover narration starts to provide information on how Cop 223 had come in close contact with a woman that would later feature in his life and the continuity of the story. The scene is shown in a jumbled-up but fast paced movement of the camera. The effect is a frame that juxtaposes the character against the anonymous mass of people (Corrigan, White, and Mazaj 50). It is a reflection of the fast-paced and anonymous life in Hong Kong. The aim of the producer is to portray the high level of confusion and disorientation found in the Chungking neighborhood.
The director makes good use of the natural lighting and the night-as-night shooting. The shots are dimly lit and the details of the setting and characters are constantly shrouded in controlled darkness (Chungking Express). In addition, there is obscure lighting and shadows from the sickly glow of the street signs and fluorescent bulbs.
The Cinematography used in the Opening Sequence
To achieve a cinematic effect, the film director uses a handheld camera and on-location shooting (Chungking Express). The result is an unsteady but constantly moving camera. The aim of this technique is to immerse the viewer into the chaotic and crowded spaces occupied by the characters (Corrigan, White, and Mazaj 60). The opening sequence shows a succession of quick shots with the camera moving fast through the locations that are bustling with different types of activities. Through close-ups and long shots, the camera sweeps across the vast and crowded spaces. In one instance in the opening sequence, there is a close-up shot of a woman in dark-glasses as she weaves her way through a narrow hallway (Chungking Express). The camera is made to bob as if the person behind it is running after the woman.
The director also adds to the dizzying visuals a unique and stylized shooting technique. The technique is combined with energized editing to add to the disorientation effect that features in the opening sequence, but which continues throughout the movie. Due to the distinct shooting style of the first sequence, the background becomes blurred (Corrigan, White, and Mazaj 62). For example, Cop 223 is seen as a blurred streak of motion. The technique exaggerates the sense of speed while heightening the jarred visual confusion in the scene. Through crafty editing, the producer cuts the action into several series of fast shots that attempts to capture Cop 223 in the frame.
The overall effect of the various techniques used in the opening scene of Chungking Express is to provide a framework through which the mood of the story is achieved and the narrative developed. The storyline is fast-paced and full of undercurrent emotions that are carefully brought out by the stylized filming and editing used by the director and the producer. By using such techniques, film directors are able to craft and deliver an enchanting movie experience.
Chungking Express. Ex. Prod. Chan Yi-Kan. Hong Kong: Jet Tone Production. 1994. DVD.
Corrigan, Timothy, Patricia White, and Meta Mazaj. Critical Visions in Film Theory, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.