‘Your Wife’s a Nigger, Eh?’
In Chungking Express (1994), a busty Chinese barkeep in a curve-hugging mini-dress and a strawberry blonde wig clanks a coin into a glittering Wurlitzer jukebox stationed a few feet from the bar.
Moments later, the rock-steady reggae of Dennis Brown’s “Things in Life” begins to churn.
With her right hand gripping the jukebox, the bartender gyrates her hips to the swirling Jamaican rhythm and, with a dainty left hand, raises a slim-necked Corona bottle to her lips.
This mesmerizing scene, one of many in a film packed with visually poetic contradictions, appears near the tail end of one of two interconnected stories in the art-house flick directed by Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai.
It’s an art-house flick that, by the way, has virtually nothing at all to do with the subject at the center of the present essay.
Well, other than offering a bit of sexy but still wholly irrelevant imagery to intrigue the reader.
Then again, there is a somewhat legitimate connection.
In Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels (1995), a loosely linked sequel whose similar format of two interconnected stories grew out of the screenplay for Chungking Express, a handsome young contract killer stalks the neon-lit backstreets of Hong Kong after dark.
Minutes after carrying out his most recent assignment — one that he barely makes it out of alive — the killer cleverly slips onto a city bus and makes an inconspicuous getaway.
As the hitman begins to rest easy in one of the cushioned seats found on the mostly vacant vehicle, his face is spotted.
Fortunately for him, it isn’t by one of his pursuers. The spotter is actually a man the assassin once attended junior high school with.
Wearing the suit and tie of a white-collar racketeer (read: insurance broker), that friend from yesteryear takes the seat behind and begins breathlessly quizzing the killer-for-hire about his life after junior high…