Wong Kar-Wai’s 1995 film Fallen Angels is the latest installment in the Department of Libraries’ Foreign and Independent Film Series. Viewings are held on the first Tuesday of each month throughout the fall semester.
There is a certain sense of nostalgia associated with flashing neon lights in cities. It harkens back to a world of constant change, one that required — no, demanded the utmost attention of anyone who fell into it. Chinese director, Wong Kar-Wai, recognized this and implemented it into all of his films, making it one of his stylistic trademarks.
Some of the director’s other films, such as In The Mood for Love and Chungking Express also share this quality.
For those unfamiliar with the director, Kar-Wai is similar to Wes Anderson in that he has popularized a certain stylistic canon. Both men also seem to enjoy keeping their casts incestuous. One example from Fallen Angels is one of the male leads Takeshi Kaneshiro, who starred in both Fallen Angels and Chungking Express.
I went into the viewing not expecting to be terribly impressed. I had seen previous works by Kar-Wai, and the film was described by the library as an “exhilarating tale of love and isolation, primarily the unconsummated love affair between a contract Killer (Leon Lai Ming) and the ravishing female Agent (Michele Reis) who books his assignments and cleans up after his jobs,” a description which wrote the film off as a sleazy, rushed action flick. I was laughingly wrong.
The plot focuses on the stories of a hitman and a mute delinquent: Wong Chi-Ming, portrayed by Leon Lai, and Ho Chi-mo, portrayed by Takeshi Kaneshiro. Both men interact with the women in their lives under very strange circumstances and in a very unsettling, detached manner.
Fallen Angels is breathtaking in its somehow Kafka-esque cinematography and general tone. The film is a wild ride. Kar-Wai’s use of close-up angles places the audience in a weird grey-area of somehow being the character while also playing voyeur.
It provides a sense of “other” that I have only ever felt while reading the late-Bohemian’s work. It is chilling and upsetting, and I could not look away for a moment.
I know very little about the filmmaking process, but I can confidently say that I believe Fallen Angels utilizes this almost existentialist quality the best out of Kar-Wai’s works and may now be my favorite of his films.
All in all, Fallen Angels is a formidable work of film. I would not recommend it to the general public, as its tone is not one typically fed to American audiences. However, if you happen to be a serious film buff, watch this film.
It has intrigue, drama and beauty. I only knocked off a star because it does not pass the Bechdel Test, a measurement that requires at least two women in a film who discuss something other than a man with each other.
Rating: ⅘ Stars