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Chungking Express
Chungking Express (1994)

Wong Kar-wai is back making films: here are some of his best

The Hong Kong auteur’s films are deliciously sensuous reflections on lust, longing, and love – here’s where to start, from Chungking Express to In the Mood for Love and 2046

There aren’t many filmmakers who can convey the pain and suffering of love quite as sexily as Wong Kar-wai. Watching the Hong Kong auteur’s films is deliciously sensory; a seductive feast of saturated colours and slow, languorous camera shots, striking fashion and breathtaking freeze frames that drift from one scene to another like the characters he chooses to highlight. Often, these protagonists are dreamers, romantic yet complex loner types, bottled with unspoken emotions and hidden desires, who ruminate endlessly on memories, time, and love – or the lack of.

After seven years of relative silence (his last film, The Grandmaster, a thrilling yet inconsistent martial arts epic set in 20th century China, was released in 2013), Wong is returning to the silver screen with a sequel to his 1994 Hong Kong classic Chungking Express, which has just been given the green light by government officials. Elsewhere, his TV project Blossoms, set for release next year, will follow a young man looking for status and romance in the boom years of 1990s China, while a remastered edition of In the Mood for Love is premiering at the New York Film Festival next month to coincide with the film’s 20-year anniversary.

For those who fall under Wong’s hypnotic spell, his work is intoxicating, packed with poetic observations and stripped-back imagery: a bucket of melting ice (As Tears Go By), the expiration date on a can of fruit (Chungking Express), a train depot clock (Days of Being Wild), and the steep stairwell leading to a noodle stand (In the Mood for Love). But those unfamiliar with the filmmaker could be forgiven for losing their attention between the often understated and nonlinear storylines, or the lingering shots of cigarette smoke swirling in the air and the reflections of light in a puddle (Wong prefers poetic observations to heavy-handed plot drivers). Admittedly, all of this requires patience, so to make it easier, here’s a rundown of some of Wong’s best films.