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Checking Out ‘Chungking Express’

Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Another day, another unexpectedly awesome combination of our twin passions — Music and Film. This time it comes to us from the funny folks at The Onion AV Club. In the fifth installment of his Song and Vision series writer Steven Hyden explores the relationship between Wong Kar-wai’s ‘Chungking Express‘ and The Mamas & The Papas song ‘California Dreamin’, a favorite of Faye Wong’s character in the film. Though, as the writer notes, the song takes on a little different meaning in light of Mackenzie Phillips’s recent “consensual incest” revelation, it’s still a great introduction to the film.

A while back, we visited the Chungking Mansion where the first part of the film was shot. Location plays an important part in the film, as the director originally intended to shoot two similar stories, one on Hong Kong Island and one in Kowloon, one at night and one during the day. In the film, the run-down, drug-infested Chungking Mansion plays a symbol of the city itself, a multicultural hub in a multicultural city, located in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood, where the director grew up.
For the film’s second location, Wong chose the fast-food Indian restaurant Midnight Express, located at the corner of the popular nightclub district Lan Kwai Fong in the Central district of Hong Kong island. Formerly, the square was the homebase for the marriage arrangers, but since the ’80s its been the place where foreign yuppies go to get wasted. In the film, Tony Leung stops by California Restaurant (G/F California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Hong Kong; +852 2521 1345), a restaurant that spurred the neighborhood’s renaissance when it opened in 1983.
photo: Roger Price/Flickr

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