Fallen Angels (1995)
I bought a new computer! With it came a nice, 22-inch monitor. After having logged some hours playing Tomb Raider and Company of Heroes 2, I decided to give my monitor a test run by watching a Wong Kar Wai film. It’s unfortunate that what was on Netflix wasn’t the best transfer.
Fallen Angels (墮落天使) follows a hitman (Leon Lai) who becomes disillusioned with the way his career is headed and decides to turn his life around as soon as he gets over his rarely seen partner (Michelle Reis), who meets an insane mute (Kaneshiro Takeshi), who falls in love with a woman (Charlie Yeung) getting over a break up.
Fallen Angels has the same basic setup as Wong’s previous film Chungking Express in that it is two tangentially related stories told within one film. In fact, Wong originally intended Fallen Angels to be a part of the earlier film. In splitting the movies, he basically crossed out all the parts where Kaneshiro was a cop in the earlier movie and instead made him a criminal instead. The motif of expiration dates (among other things) survived the rewrite.
What I appreciate about Wong’s movies in general (barring The Grandmaster) is the relatively very grownup look at the mechanics of love. Disappointment in being unable to be in a relationship with someone a character wants is often the norm as opposed to the exception, unlike most movies we see. We see The hitman and his partner deal with the emotional turmoil of their impending breakup in their own ways. The mute meets the woman he falls in love with when she almost randomly asks him to provide a shoulder to cry on.
Despite that, I will say Fallen Angels could be the most erotic movie I’ve seen in a while; given that it’s Wong Kar Wai, at least some eroticism is to be expected. While there wasn’t a single explicit guy-on-girl sex scene, we do have moments like the partner pleasuring herself with the thought of the hitman in mind.
Unfortunately, the chief complaint I had with this movie was its pacing. The mute guy’s story ate up more time in the movie, but I thought it was less interesting than that of the hitman.
Wong also seemed to experiment with his style quite a bit more than I have seen in his other work. At least a couple scenes were in black and white. Like in Chungking Express, Wong made very interesting use of music.
Overall, while I did enjoy Fallen Angels, I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite Wong Kar Wai film. While it was supposed to be the spiritual successor to Chungking Express, I will say I actually liked Chungking Express more than I liked Fallen Angels. It’s a good movie to watch if you feel like too many movie romances have happy endings.