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Fallen Angels 
Written by: on December 11th, 2005

Theatrical Release Date: 1995
Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Cast: Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Charlie Yeung, Karen Mok

DVD released: August 12th, 2004
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: M (Australia)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Cantonese
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Accent
Region Coding: Region 4 PAL
Retail Price: Aus $34.95 (Australia)

Synopsis: A killer (Lai) prepares to carry out hits with the help of his agent (Reis) who secretly loves him despite only knowing him from the rubbish she clears away when he leaves his hideout. Meanwhile, a mute man (Kaneshiro) makes a living by breaking into other people’s shops at night and then harasses customers until they pay him. A woman (Mok) looks for love from the killer after a one-night stand.

Not much of a plot really, more of a collection of human debris brought together by the night. This film switches focus from character to character with little warning and little real connection other than coincidence. At points this film is a hitman thriller, a slapstick comedy about a mute chef, and a discovery of the value of film. Unlike Kar-Wai’s later films, Fallen Angels is very modern. Lai is improbably handsome and Reis masturbates whilst wearing designer gear and fishnet stockings. Kaneshiro’s cruelty to his customers includes forced shaving and ice cream poisoning. Reality is therefore far from Kar-Wai’s intent here, and the film is really a cinematic doodle with strong feelings of spontaneity and improvisation from all the actors.

The point of the film though is a poetic one. Reis holds on to Kaneshiro on his motorbike at the end and thinks to herself that “I won’t be here long…it is while since I felt such warmth”. And that is the pop philosophy at the center of the film, that we make the best of what there is before we are gone. Consequently, Blondie(Mok) does not want to be forgotten so she dies her hair blonde and the Killer (Lai) says “everyone needs a partner”. In terms of Kar-Wai’s films, the later style of In The Mood For Love and 2046 are signaled here with beautiful roaming cinematography, lush use of pop music and loose narrative. The experimentation and the willingness to simply follow an idea despite any structure are virtuoso and underline how unique the Director is. This tendency is one that bores as many filmgoers as it excites, but it is very brave and stops Kar-Wai from being merely a pop filmmaker like in his earlier films As Tears Go By and Days of Being Wild.

From where I sit, Fallen Angels is a perfect achievement and a keynote of the romantic pessimism that Kar-Wai is now known for.

The DVD:

This R4 disc is the best presentation of the film available. The film has been extensively restored and outshines the R1 Kino release in terms of well balanced colour and a well defined print. The sound is stereo and despite some very mild distortion in music is very acceptable.

Extras on the disc are non-existent bar a restoration piece showing the film before and after work on the print. A small booklet is included with the disc with an essay on the film.

Fallen Angels is a film that divides people. Fans of Wong Kar Wai’s later films may find it too rough, and general film fans may dislike the lack of structure. I believe though that it is the best film from the director who is possibly the most interesting on the planet at the moment. This disc is the best way to see it.

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