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Friday, February 3, 2017
Wong Kar-wai | 墮落天使 (Duòluò tiānsh) Fallen Angels
a beautiful bauble
by Douglas Messerli
Wong Kar-wai (writer and director) 墮落天使 (Duòluò tiānsh) Fallen Angels / 1995
Is there a real story in Wong Kar-wai’s 1995 Fallen Angels, or is the film all affect? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Given the beauty of Wong’s wide-angled lenses, his brightly-lit neon, the freeze frames, black-and-white interruptions, and slow-mo camera, the viewer can just sit back and relax. As some critics have noted, the experience of watching this film is more like flipping through a glossy entertainment magazine than watching a complete movie.
What little that might be called plot—the murders committed by the passive hit man, Wong Chi-ming (Leon Lei), the masturbatory fantasies of his so-called “partner” (Michelle Reis), the crazy sexual abandon of a McDonalds-going call girl, Blondie (Karen Mok), the nightly takeovers of daytime businesses by the mute Ho Chi-mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and the sobs of Ho’s friend, Charlie (Charlie Yeung), all interspersed within the movie like a kind of collage—are more like events or happenings than standard narrative.
As brutal as Wong Chi-ming’s hits are—all directed by his bedroom cleaning “partner—they are accomplished with such a lazy diffidence that they seem more like anime images than scenes from a gangster movie.
The women of this film are strong beings, but can only suffer over the inattentiveness of their lovers. When Wong takes up with Blondie, his “partner
In the end, I think it’s best to view Fallen Angels as a kind phantasmagoric comedy, a kind of beautiful bauble without real meaning. Certainly Wong went on to make very different kinds of films about love. But this extension of his Chungking Express is simply a more youthful experimentation with the media. And boy is it pretty and fun to watch!
Los Angeles, February 3, 2017