Wong Kar-Wai's FALLEN ANGELS
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
This movie probably seemed quite edgy in 1995 with its flashy camera work, eclectic soundtrack, lost souls, and emphasis on character, ennui, and quiet desperation. Viewed from 2013 the only thing that dates it is the dependence on payphones.
The entire movie occurs at night in the seedier parts of what looks like Hong Kong. Sometimes there is rain through the darkness. Seldom do we see as many people as we would in the daytime.
The isolation is obviously intentional as the movie revolves around a set of characters whose ideas of relationships are distinctly unique. Here we have a group of emotionally disaffected young people who go through life not really in touch with what they need or want in relationships. One is a murderer for hire, one is his female handler, one is a mute young man with bizarre career tendencies, one is an orange haired manic woman who seems quite dramatically nuts, and one is a young woman who seems to be conducting romantic affairs by pay telephone.
It’s hard to develop an emotional attachment with such a group but the movie’s tight focus on their individual emotional states, as they they struggle through the relationships, is presented with amazing skill through the director’s kinetic style and emphasis on garish colors and sounds.
Fallen Angels has occasional flashes of brutality and violence. There are also moments of tenderness and levity. My favorite scene: a young woman carries on an animated series of telephone conversation about her disappointment in love while the mute young man looks on. I could watch a whole movie about her character, I thought to myself.
One thought that popped into my mind at first about Fallen Angels was “style over substance.” That’s simplistic. Yes, there’s a ton of style here. There is also a lot of substance. It’s just that the substance is not the feel-good or warm-and-fuzzy type; at times things get really dark. How the movie is photographed supports that. But it’s a movie well worth watching.
Review copyright (c) 2013 by Dennis D. McDonald.