Film of the Week: Fallen Angels

If you’ve never seen a Wong Kar-wai film, most people would recommend either Chungking Express (1994) or In the Mood for Love (2000). Neither choice is wrong, yet my personal favorite is Fallen Angels (1995). Fallen Angels serves as Chungking Express’ informal sequel, and as Kar-wai describes it, the main “character” in both these films aren’t the actors, but rather the city of Hong Kong. Whereas Chungking Express was filmed in the daytime, Fallen Angels occupies the night, and therein lies the key difference between the two. Christopher Doyle shot both films and Doyle’s aesthetics here display a kinetic energy in line with the shoe-gaze and dream-pop music of the era—My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless (1990), Slowdive’s Souvlaki (1993), and  Lush’s Hypocrite (1994).[1] Images are slowed and characters traversing urban landscapes washed in neon, are transformed into ghosts. Further lending Fallen Angels, a lite-cyberpunk atmosphere is its story split into two sections. The first centers on hit-man Wong Chi-ming (Leon Lai) who receives kill orders from his agent (Michelle Reis). The two never meet, but the agent fantasizes about Wong and falls in love with him. She spends her time cleaning his apartment and frequenting the bar he visits in hopes of running into him. The second story revolves around Ho Chi-mo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) a delinquent who falls in love with a girl named Charlie (Charlie Yeung). The two spend their nights patrolling the neighborhood in search for Charlie’s ex-boyfriend who left her for another woman. It’s a noir, a comedy, a romance. Kar-wai deftly moves through genre, but the city remains constant through it all. Arcade markets and shifting alleyways give rise to chance encounters.  But just as Hong Kong brings people together, it separates them just as easily

[1] Just as much can be said for the film’s ties to U.K trip-hop music. As discogs notes, Fallen Angel’s opening track, “First Killing” is a re-orchestration of Massive Attack’s “Karmacoma.” One can also think of the lyrics and production of Portishead or Everything But the Girl, which express longing, desire, and regret.

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