And while Wong's quirky films are a clear departure from the largely formulaic Hong Kong film industry, that was his leaping-off point. He cut his teeth in production at the Hong Kong commercial television station TVB and spent much of the '80s churning out comedy and action scripts for Cinema City, one of the colony's most successful film studios.
The writer-as-chameleon pose still suits Wong, who is making a musical and hankering after horror and science fiction.
His first two films were eclectic as well: "As Tears Go By" (1988), spiked with harsh light and neon, drew heavily on Martin Scorsese's "Mean Streets." His 1990 film "Days of Being Wild" was its visually colorless opposite, a meditation on loneliness and regret set in the 1960s nightclub scene.
Loneliness pervades his work, and Esther Yau, an assistant professor of film at Occidental College, says Wong's take on the fragility of relationships in "Chungking Express" marks the filmmaker as one who is peculiarly suited to the millennium.
"There's a certain kind of sensibility for the '90s that this film is really about--the kind of love relationships that are sort of temporary, a little on the surface, a little dislocated," Yau says. "I would think it would cross over, not because it's Hong Kong or Chinese.
"There's a Chinese critic who says the film reflects a fin de siecle sensibility. In Hong Kong everyone feels you can't see what will happen in the 21st century. But Wong says every day is fin de siecle. Every day is an end of something."