Comparing the Narrative and Formal Devices of ChungKing Express and A Bout de Souffle
Wong Kar Wai’s movie ‘ChungKing Express’ bears many similarities to
Godard’s ‘A Bout de Souffle’. To start with, Wai employs a number of
cinematic techniques, obviously derived from the French New Wave, such
as for example the jump-cut which is evidently taken from Godard’s
film. His use of the Godard-ian jump cut seamlessly blends
temporally-exclusive scenes together, making the passage of time
unnoticeable. Other Godard-ian touches include the many shots of
clocks, which remind the viewer that despite the protagonist’s
fixation on the past, time continues to move on and that moments in
the present are fleeting. Another interesting technique, seen in
"ChungKing Express", clearly represents the protagonist's detachment
from reality-- the film is sped up, but the actors move very slowly.
The resulting visual effect then conveys that while the rest of the
world blurs by like the flapping of a hummingbird's wings, the
protagonist is in a stagnant state of existence, lost within his own
nostalgic thoughts. In ‘A Bout de Souffle’, the audience are also
constantly reminded of the fact that they are watching a film by
Michel. In the opening sequence of this movie, Michel is driving
through the country when suddenly he turns and addresses the camera.
Once the illusion of being a real character, and not merely an actor
has been violated there is no way back. Our suspension of disbelief
has been shattered and so we always have the thought in the back of
our minds that Belmondo is merely play acting.
The character of Faye who only appears in the second storyline, as the
counter girl, in a way represents Jean Seaberg from Godard’s ‘A Bout
de Souffle’. She wears the same type of cloths, has the same hair do
and her rather eccentric attitude to life also corresponds to that of
her French counterpart.
The primary function of the traditional Hong Kong film industry was to
churn out movies aimed at the general public and make sure that they
bring in a profit. This is much like the French film industry was
before the emergence of the French New Wave. However Wai’s ‘ChungKing
Express’ was clearly not aimed at the masses, but rather only at the
people who have developed a real understanding and appreciation for
the art of film. Godard’s ‘A Bout de Souffle’ was also a film which
was made to...