Fallen Angels (1995)

Upon first viewing, Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels can come across as a schizophrenic mess of a film with a disjointed plot.  Like most of his movies, Wong Kar-wai relies heavily on strong visual imagery and character voiceovers to convey the mood of this film.  The underlying tone just beneath the surface is that of quiet chaos in the lives of its characters and the city in which they inhabit.  Wong Kar-wai’s Hong Kong is not the Hong Kong of Jackie Chan or the countless other Kung Fu action movies that came to define the city.  Instead, we are taken to a city of lost souls where alienation is rampant and nighttime rules.

Fallen Angels is a simple narrative that follows the lives of two unrelated men through the neon nights of Hong Kong.  The viewer is brought into the lives of an assassin and a mute and their potential romantic interests.  While both of these men lead different lives, they share an overwhelming sense of isolation stemming from self-induced loneliness.  The assassin is a complicated figure that kills alone but needs the assistance of a young female manager to set up the details of his hits.  Even though he is an elusive and detached figure, his assistant has become obsessed with him and roams the streets of Hong Kong at night in search of him.  The second character, the mute, is a young man who carries out crazy antics throughout the night.  Since he is not able to hold a normal job due to his quirks, he takes to the streets at night by hijacking closed food stalls and other small businesses and forcing random colorful characters to pay him for his services.

Fallen Angels is a beautiful film at its core and is a joy to watch.  While the emotions of the characters are kept at a distance from the viewer, we are rewarded with Wong Kar-wai’s surrealism in his portrayal of modern Hong Kong.  Throughout the movie, we are caught in the dreamlike trance of the characters and that of Hong Kong as well, which comes to embody a living and breathing entity unto itself.    It is not an overstatement to say that Wong Kar-wai has a truly unique style of filmmaking and that one could easily identify his films without knowing who the director was beforehand.

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~ by asiaflicks on March 24, 2010.

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