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.

Quick-Thoughts: Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Jacques Demy Marathon Part III of III • Screened at The Frida Cinema


Self-aware slice of fantasia harkening to the Gene Kelly Hollywood era but stuck by default in its era of French New Wave bleakness. Though, I didn’t take this as a strictly woeful tragedy — more of an acceptance of it and how true love doesn’t need to be “the life” when looking forward since it’s not the sole gateway to bliss — but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a plethora of intentional choices here to make the two lovers’ departure from fairytale idealism anything but an unreturned maneuver when considering the peers that influenced them. I know what you did now Damien Chazelle.

But, let’s be honest here fellas: more importantly than any of this…

The color, the color, THE COLOR!

Verdict: B

Jacques Demy Ranked

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Jacques Demy’s Bay of Angels (1963)

Jacques Demy Marathon Part II of III

This Jean guy has got to learn how to have some independence for himself, sheesh.

Quite the L when we allow chance to judge a person’s character, but in all fairness, that sort of sounds like the foundation for almost every encounter ever. The thing about gambling though is that it’s more direct: the act grants a stimulative ability to see a resolute good or bad to what came before or what’s to come, and it’s one of the easiest ways for us to judge our actions and subsequent drives based on its end results. It’s a simplified way of perceiving and living, and happiness and sadness in its perks become so black-and-white to the point where its straightforwardness is its addiction, especially in the face of love. The willingness to see it through and perhaps counter that yin and yang though then becomes what makes it worth going back to, to see if there is something deeper beyond its one-note mechanics, when really, luck is a bulls**t game we’d like to think is more deliberate than it actually is.

As someone who pulls crap like having to lock their car four times before leaving it, it’s furthermore proof that despite me knowing that these stunts are idle, I still subconsciously convince myself they’re not.

Verdict: B

Jacques Demy Ranked

“Bay of Angels” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Jacques Demy’s Lola (1961)

Jacques Demy Marathon Part I of III

“It’s ruined. The sky ran into the sea.”

Actually, I’ll ask you: do you think this movie exists during days where these people’s lives happen to function on a series of coincidences or does it exist in a world where they all play a role in the same series of experiences but each enduring it during contrasting timelines? Either way, the charm of Jacques Demy’s directorial debut is this sort of celebratory plot-writing on how we share and pass on similar experiences, romanticizing our akin dreams that occasionally become a reality but, as compensation, stay very much a dream to the majority of others in this revolving script to frame humanity. Lola has options, but don’t you dare question that she’ll choose any other than the one most straight from a fairytale if presented! Tis a pity though that it naturally leaves room for others’ contempt towards likelihood…

Quite ahead of its time. Pulp Fiction.

Verdict: B+

Jacques Demy Ranked

“Lola” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975)

Screened at Regal • 4th Viewing

Capitalism is a maneater’s best friend. Perhaps my favorite metaphor in Jaws is when all the locals and visitors of Amity Island decide to go into the water fully knowing that there’s a shark in there. Why? Because they’re told that they’re safe despite facts, and to tell ya the truth, far too often do we allow that reassurance from superiors to be enough for us, so it only makes sense that we still manage ourselves to be surprised by its unfavorable outcomes. 

Now a big believer though that the first half of this is scarier than the second — despite Quint’s iconic monologue — but don’t get me wrong, they both get under my skin. Minimalism.

Verdict: A-

Steven Spielberg Ranked

“Jaws” is now playing in IMAX theaters.

Happy Fifteen Years, There Will Be Blood (2007)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

“Do you think that God is going to save you for being stupid?”

There is something extremely important about the time period in which Paul Thomas Anderson chooses here because it very much is needed to embody the great foreshadowing of today. Throughout history, there have been all types of factors that clash but fail to veto a simple fact of life: intellectual belief will always come second to the intrinsic nature of an animal. But the inception of the petroleum trade in America – the real swinging industrialization of the country – anticipates better than no other movie on the subject, that capitalism has become the new centerfold that will come first before our other personal values, and that our biology — i.e. our wiring for family, our wiring for sexual reproduction — has alas reached a point where it can now more easily be the after-thought instead. The nature of fleshly creation (via us) has alas been bought out by a form of production far more powerful. Specifically, this is the start of the mechanical age of reproduction, where we will begin suppressing our intrinsic, animalistic nature faster than ever in order for corporate business endeavors to operate at full speed with no breaks to halt its excess of creations for the consumers who must undergo these constant changes, fueling a new spectrum of accumulating sorrow in us. Daniel Plainview is an example subject of a pioneering founder for this modern evolution, and he — quite literally — guides Hell onto Earth’s surface to sought it. His competitor Eli even kills his own beloved God by the film’s coda for the sake of business. 

And so I congratulate There Will Be Blood for being the best to depict it. If we had to save one movie to represent what’s been going on in humanity for the past century, then this is it. Here’s furthermore to fifteen years of not being topped!

Verdict: A+

All-Time Favorites, PTA Ranked

“There Will Be Blood” is now available to stream on Paramount+.

Quick-Thoughts: Alex Cox’s Repo Man (1984)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

I felt like I was losing my f**king mind watching this. I imagine getting high would somehow only lessen the brain scramble that this movie gives you, which goes to show how influential Alex Cox’s work is in its demonstration of an “end of the world” type psychosis when living in the existential stages of your ordinary suburban roles. From what I understand, it’s trying to find an equilibrium between the aimless zombie consumers vs the free yet also aimless criminals (the verbally punk and the discreetly hidden) vs CIA conspiracy theorist agents and their also aimless search for answers. Quite a nihilistic and frustratingly monotone look at Gen-X adult American lifestyle, and each story comes colliding with the other every so often with a new-wave sensibility that only gets more hectically interwoven as it rides along.

After seeing They Live (1988) yesterday, this makes for a coincidental back-to-back. Though this is a wee more up my alleyway when it comes to exploring sociology in the capitalist domain.

And that part where Otto barfs has got to be the weirdest plot convenience I’ve ever spotted. 

Verdict: B+

“Repo Man” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Quick-Thoughts: John Carpenter’s They Live (1988)

Screened at The Alamo Drafthouse

“Wearing these glasses gets you high, but you come down hard.”

Probably the truest thing said in this movie. Sometimes I still do it, but for a while, I used to use the phrase “ok boomer” constantly like it was some programmed defense mechanism in me to instantly disregard and not process arguments against modern western culture, but honestly looking at the world today, the internet, especially in this TikTok / COVID era, is brainwashing us to sleep more than ever before, sedating us with less thought to comfort us into swifter dopamine consumption, and that’s how America has been accumulating as since its industrialization. But at the same time, you can’t deny, acknowledging reality – usually transpires when I happen to be more social outside of the internet – every once in a while gives you unparalleled jolts of freedom, and yet it becomes overwhelming at the same time for us to think when we’ve been mollycoddled to not most of our lives scrolling through the internet and allowing a highly regulated (by the media in terms of what’s popular and predominately broadcasted) screen to create your character and its beliefs. Not saying that the outside world doesn’t manipulate you like this as well, but by God, does the internet allow for it to happen far more.

John Carpenter discovers capitalism! Sure, the perspective on its mechanics is simplified here but the auteur is clearly having fun with it. From how I interpreted it though, I presumed that the aliens were the innately born rich + powerful humans and the aware humans were people who earned their wealth through giving into the corrupt system – i.e. sell-outs – but are obligated to not share the truth as it would decrease the power that they and the aliens hold. A cute “eat the rich” type narrative, but the ending is also trying to mimic an impossible dream. Maybe it’s time to accept the harsh reality or keep on pretending like it doesn’t exist. What’s worse? Being the invader? The bystander? Or believing you could be the hero against both? Carpenter probably thinks he’s the latter option, huh?

Also, that fist fight is amazing LOL.

Verdict B

John Carpenter Ranked

“They Live” is currently not available to stream on VOD.

Quick-Thoughts: Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

Screened at The Frida Cinema

“Why… why two?”

“I handle them a lot when I perform. They get damaged easily.”

More than any other cinematic portfolio out there, every time I watch a Krzysztof Kieślowski film for the first time, I feel like I am looking at colors, shadows, and lights as if I were a child again. The intensity he and his DPs bring to the visuals often appear unmatched especially during the time that they came out. No way did Jean-Pierre Jeunet not use this movie in particular as a direct inspiration for the cinematography behind his smash hit Amélie (2001).

Whether it’s in the form of a lifeless POV or a dream-replicating sequence of events, The Double Life of Véronique is very much glued to the trial-process in “death” through the eyes of God. Kieślowski aches on the importance of intimate relatability and near identicalness that come from a single creationist’s children. Perhaps he is quite literally reflecting on his own work of characters throughout the decade. Yes.

Verdict: A-

Kieślowski Ranked

“The Double Life of Véronique” is now available to stream on The Criterion Channel.

Quick-Thoughts: John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969)

Screened at The Regency Theater

“Well, maybe you gotta think about those things for a while.”

Swindlers make swindlers. This is one of the most melancholy depictions of city life optimism I have ever seen because in hindsight it’s what fuels pessimism towards self-reflection. Some of the darkest psychosexual / Freudian upbringing material I’ve ever endured on-screen gets displayed in this feature-length’s memory sequences, from the incestual trauma to the suppressed romanticism. The juxtaposition between the primary narrative and these flashbacks / dreams are nourished sublimely by vicious editing. The film isn’t afraid to even lean into some borderline cinéma vérité as well with the claustrophobic handheld and close-up montaging, not to mention how the performances are allowed to often talk over one another. But, it also blends those techniques with rather traditionally strong compositions too, usually during the few moments where our two leads can take a breather with one another.

Your commercialized perception of reality prevents you longer from succeeding. Joe and Ratso are always dreaming but they never go anywhere. Everyone has to dumb themselves down with fantasy because their ability to be successful — and perhaps to add to the term in this film’s case, underlying themes of that translating to embracing your sexuality and not just what the radio tells you to be — is so shadowed by a population of swindlers who have to live on pillaging to even have the time to contemplate a plan. Joe’s character is written to not be the brightest in any given room, and because of it, he survives failure with his consistent glimmers of hope; he has fallen under the spell of capitalistic society and seeks to live in its dreams till death. He’s literally manipulated to think “money” is spelled “mony” by a giant New York corporation building — I don’t know how much more on-the-nose you would want than that. His friend is really just a brainstorming buddy to enhance their delusion; Ratso’s intelligence and eventual awareness get the better of him; the comfort-thought of an afterlife is just to lack trying. Him being told “Hey fella, you fell” is tonal foreshadowing of the movie’s ending that’s just *chef’s kiss*. This is a harrowing illustration of living as someone who isn’t truly yourself because you give too much into what the media tells you to be to the point where you never will be “someone”. John Ford may have not been gay, but just because you put on the cowboy get-up doesn’t make you akin to him.

I am sad now.

Verdict: A-

“Midnight Cowboy” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.