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Film review: Chungking Express

"Chungking Express" is actually two movies, a pair of stories about lovelorn cops who are carrying torches for the girlfriends who dumped them.

But the film is a lot less predictable than that description may suggest.

The first story, "Chungking House," follows a hapless plain-clothes detective as he mopes around Hong Kong, eating pineapple slices from small cans — but only if the expiration date is May 1 — and repeatedly calling his old girlfriend in a desperate attempt to try and patch things up.

Meanwhile, a woman in a blond wig is trying to illegally transport drugs when she is double-crossed — the Indian family carrying the drug packets for her simply disappears. Needless to say, she is desperate to find them.

These two disparate personalities will eventually come together, but it won't be a conventional meeting, much less a happy ending.

The second story, "Midnight Express," is even more off the wall, though, somehow, more appealing. The story has a cop pining for his old girlfriend, a flight attendant. He's so depressed that he begins talking to inanimate objects in his apartment — bars of soap, dish towels, etc. Mainly he tells them not to cry.

When he meets an odd young woman at the snack bar where he is a regular, she falls in love with him . . . sort of. After intercepting his apartment keys, which have been mailed by his ex-girlfriend, she spends much of each day sneakily entering his place, rearranging his belongings and dancing around his living room.

Though much of the material has a charming quirkiness to it, writer-director Wong Kar-Wai seems to think he's making a long music video. His jittery hand-held camera work, distorted visual imagery and slow-motion techniques seem more suited to MTV shorts than a big-screen feature — and when not merely distracting, it can be downright irritating.

But there is one major saving grace — Faye Wang, a Chinese singer making her acting debut in the second story as the snack-bar clerk. She is utterly enchanting, in her own offbeat way, and her natural performance is so graceful that her presence alone is almost worth the price of admission.

"Chungking Express" is rated PG-13 for violence, sex and drugs.