I fancy myself as someone who is pretty skilled at picking up allegories and subtle themes throughout a film. I usually can figure out the deeper messages upon first viewing– even of films that jump around in time like "12 Monkeys" or any Quintin Tarantino movie. Same goes for motifs like the color red in "American Beauty" or "Sixth Sense." Later, I'll google to confirm my suspicions and am often proven right.
I'm tellin' ya, I have a solid track record.
However... I kept waiting for the pay off with this film and it never came. This was too experimental for my taste and it felt like a Hong Kong prequel to "Tree of Life." After googling, I realized I wasn't as much of a brainlet as I thought and there really was no conclusion. This is so New Wave that it just explores motifs with no real takeaway.
I'm not gonna' say that makes it a bad film, because there's definitely a place for such unorthodox art. But you absolutely have to be the kind of person who's into that, and you have to expect that going in. Otherwise, it'll feel like mental blue balls as you strain for 2 hours trying to put the puzzle pieces together. Don't let the ambiguity & romance fool you, this is not "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." The characters in the first and second half of the film have no relation to each other other than reoccurring themes in their lives.
Check out these "Chungking Express Explained" links:
Chungking Express (1994) EXPLAINED
I'd say spoiler warning, but there's no traditional plot, and the biggest element is anachronism so you can't really spoil this film. In any case, both of the links above don't mention a conclusion. Only concepts explored.
And if these two trivia facts from IMDb are correct, that proves it. The director is just wingin' it as he goes along:
It reminds me of "Evangelion." Which, ngl, much like this film, is also very overrated. Sorry, I know I'll catch flak for that take, but whatever. Having avant-garde elements doesn't make you immune to criticism and I'd argue it's often "The Emperor's New Clothes" brainlets who dish out praise for fear of looking dumb.
I will give credit where credit is due though. Understanding the context of the "Evangelion" creator and production process made me appreciate it a lot more. Likewise when you don't take its cultural impact for granted. Hindsight is 20/20 and to us, it's full of clichés minus the last episode. But apparently it was so revolutionary for its time that many of the seemingly cliché things were actually trailblazers.
In Defense of the Elevator Scene from Evangelion - Super Eyepatch Wolf
Digibro Archive: How Evangelion Altered Anime Eternally
Well, the same is true for "Chungking Express." If you consider the identity crisis Hong Kong was going through at the time, you can acknowledge why the movie had such an impact. You can appreciate that for the 90's, the manic pixie dream girl wasn't quite a cliché yet, rather than try to rationalize her bizarre OCD trespassing. You can value the schizo storyline and simply let the emotions of its patterns resonate.
BUT... unless you're a huge film buff, these apologetics won't cut it and I'd say just skip it.