Quick-Thoughts, Again: Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels (1995)

Another full theater for Mr. Kar-wai. We should always expect nothing less.

My previous review of Fallen Angels is rubbish… or at least the first paragraph of it is. The aesthetic here is NOT identical to Chungking Express (1994). This is without a doubt Kar-wai’s most intentionally funny, his most violent, and really his most aggressive excess in style. The mix of art-pop and trip-hop from some spectacular artists such as Massive Attack and Laurie Anderson set the scene of midnight shenanigans perfectly. Christopher Doyle’s blur-crazy tactics are just as prime as they were in Chungking Express, but his slo/fast-mo is rather assembled together with a more sociopathic recklessness than before. I haven’t seen Ashes of Time (1994) yet, but for now, this to me is Kar-wai’s definitive action flick; the breakouts in it pedal to the metal beyond any performance direction that the filmmaker has done before, as if every nocturnal humanoid creeping between these after-hour streets are just here to ultimately blow-up and make something of that.

What’d we give to be blond in a profession that requires anonymity. Hell, what’d we give to just be blond to someone let alone an entire community. But for the most part, our fades stay shadows, and Fallen Angels is about wannabee caricatures feeding as hitmen or con-artists who eventually earn their wings as soon as their momentary glowing romantic fades discipline them into a transition where freedom exists when their impact is no longer corroborated by someone else’s tribulation, a classic coming-of-age development sought into maturing or even perhaps just dying happy as someone who can pull the trigger back for themselves. At some point, Kar-wai allegedly is even placing himself in this position when one of our lead characters (a mute bottom-feeder living in his father’s hotel complex who preys on the negative attention of others) begins fascinating himself with a video camera regularly, and the technology itself becomes more like God to him than his or any other’s own eyes. 

Cute how this also has the reverse ending of Chungking Express with the flight attendant returning to a platonic partner but this time with no memory of such. People aren’t just tidying up their lover’s rooms in secrecy like a giggly princess fairytale in this follow-up. No, they’re masturbating on their private territory in tears with Haneke levels of psychosexual desperation. The two films’ hopeless love stories aren’t too tonally alike, but that’s probably what makes them such strong companion pieces. Let’s see those polar opposites of relational reality mirrored in the day’s literal ante meridiem, the friskier time to feel alive.

Verdict Change: A- —> A

All-Time Favorites, Wong Kar-wai Ranked

“Fallen Angels” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel and HBO Max.

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