- Faye Wong rides the world’s longest escalator in Chungking Express.
Everybody who works with Bill Murray, or even encounters him (like at a poetry reading or a SXSW party), has epic, awe-struck stories about his intense, committed quirks and occasional boozy brilliance. This brief Black Book profile even brings up the ultimate Bill Murray myth, the “no one will ever believe you” story, but begins with Murray himself expressing awe at a collaborator: the drunken peripatetic Australian laborer turned world-renowned drunken Chinese cinematographer Christopher Doyle. At first, Murray can’t remember his name—I guess Murray isn’t a devoted fan of Doyle and Wong Kar-wai’s seminal work on 90s Hong Kong art cinema masterpieces like Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express and Happy Together—but he’s impressed:
Bill Murray is annoyed. He can’t recall the name of the cinematographer who worked on his upcoming film, Passion Play. “He’s Irish, but he’s from Australia and he lives in China,” says the 59-year-old, Oscar-nominated actor, knitting his brow in thought. “I talk about him all the time. The crazy Tourette’s guy. ”Murray takes a slow sip from a bottle of Brooklyn Lager. “I worked with him on that movie I did with what’s-his-nuts.” Wes Anderson? “No.” Ivan Reitman? “Jim Jarmusch. It was that one called… ” Broken Flowers? “No.” Coffee and Cigarettes? “The Limits of Control,” he says. “The guy wears platform shoes when he’s working. He can’t talk for 16 seconds without going into a rant. He once told me this crazy story about living in Hong Kong, next to the world’s longest escalator. He’d strip naked in front of his window for everyone to see. But the thing was almost a mile long—the escalator—so by the time people got to the end of it they couldn’t remember what building he was in.”
Wait, really? Doyle did indeed live in an apartment looking out over Hong Kong’s Central-Mid-Levels escalator—famously, it was his apartment that Wong used as the abode of the depressed cop played by Tony Leung in Chungking Express. You get a great view of Doyle’s/Cop 663’s apartment, and a bit of the escalator, in this clip from the film, in which manic pixie dream girl Faye Wong sneaks in during the day to make subtle alterations for whimsical reasons. (And yes, that’s a Cantonese cover of the Cranberries’ “Dreams”. The singer is Faye Wong herself.)
I count the first time I watched this scene as probably the most meaningful experience of my life to date (note: I may not actually be exaggerating). I really don’t know how I feel about Chungking Express now that I know that Doyle used to use that apartment to flash his junk to people on that escalator. (And it must be true, Bill Murray said so.) This will take some time to get used to.
(Be sure to read the whole Murray profile, for a great anecdote about Josh Hartnett being a dick.)