Fallen Angels (1998)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

[director Wong Kar-Wai]
Cast: Leon Lai, Michelle Reis

Fallen Angels makes the rain-washed streets of Hong Kong after midnight look like the loneliest existential void in the world. It’s a beautiful, highly-stylized film with a warped drugged-out look (thanks to great cinematographer Christopher Doyle) and improvised performances, a la Chungking Express. In fact, the first story in this film was actually a third story that was intended to be filmed as part of Chungking Express, so this film is as close as Wong Kar-Wai has ever come to making an actual sequel.

But it seems less like a sequel than its own separate work. Wong revisits some of the locations of Chungking Express and uses a similar storytelling style, but Fallen Angels is a much darker movie, in which romance is grabbed at but rarely gotten. It’s a place in which time is running out and people are left abandoned in the scramble to escape a feared future.

Leon Lai plays a killer who is sick of himself. Michelle (Reis) Lee gives the performance of her life as his agent who longs, in a very sexualized manner, to be better friends with him. Also in the mix is Takeshi Kaneshiro, playing a kind of opposite character to the one he was in Chungking Express. Rather than a cop, this time Takeshi is a former felon, who breaks into people’s stores after hours and runs their businesses. These characters encounter each other in strange and interesting ways as the narrative gently moves from one lonesome scene to the next.

No one in the world can make longing and waiting so seductive as Wong Kar-Wai. His particular talents are at the fore here in what is perhaps his signature work to date.

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