Faye Wong’s Opening Scene in Chungking Express

I hesitate to write about Faye Wong’s (王菲) role in Wong Kar Wai’s (王家卫) 1994 masterpiece, Chungking Express, because, for many Westerners, this is the be all and end all of Faye’s acting career. Still, I think it’s worth discussing simply because it provides insight into Faye’s endless appeal. Compared to other actors, she stands out because she’s so utterly different. While everyone else is intent on acting, Faye is simply being, natural and therefore fascinating. Her presence is captivating because it’s so refreshing, like sunlight in comparison to fluorescent or incandescent.

ADDED 15 Feb 2010: Video below. When people ask me what’s so special about Faye, I think of this film, and especially this opening scene. This was my first introduction to Faye Wong, and I was hooked.

The still above is from the opening scene of the second of two stories in the film. (Click on it to see the video clip.) The first few minutes are the end of the first. In this scene, police officer 633, played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (梁朝偉), meets Faye for the first time. This scene of Faye behind the counter, gently rocking to The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” is my favorite in all the films I’ve ever seen. I never get tired of watching it. Her movements are so original that I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

Wong Kar Wai understands this quality in Faye and, in his infinite wisdom, gives her free rein in interpreting her parts. Directors who don’t quite get it try to direct Faye, and the result is more often than not stiffness and self-consciousness, acting rather than being. They haven’t learned that when they have a natural, they should just let her do her own thing.

Enough talk. Watch the video and see for yourself.

BTW, Faye has acted in a number of films and TV series, and in future posts, I’ll be discussing them.