Fallen Angels (Hong Kong, 1995):
(Duo Luo Tian Shi)

Angels fall for what they crave -- stability, or, simply, the present in Wong Kar-Wai's Hong Kong as the new millennium approaches. The title whooshes by, like the characters, though not before a tremulous b&w close-up, a bit tilted, the first of a thousand visual wonders. Handheld fragments, casually wide-angled, follow Michelle Reis through terminals for her job, setting up hits for partner Leon Lai, a languorous Mr. Cool killer-for-hire; Lai leaves decisions to others, so that all he needs to do is show up at the assigned place, a gun in each hand, for some smudged slow-mo shootouts, a grade school pal recognizing him on his way home. On the other side of town, or across the street, is ex-con Takeshi Kaneshiro, busting locks of stores in the middle of the night to force business onto strangers, massaging a pig's carcass or insisting on extra doses of ice-cream for a passerby: a former chatterbox turned silent following a can of expired pineapple, just one of several links to Wong's earlier jaunt (Kaneshiro's father runs "Chungking Mansion Hotel"). The mute kid pesters people at the restaurant, one of whom turns out to be pissed-off chick Charlie Yeung, yelling at some "blondie" on the phone then grabbing Kaneshiro for one tumultuous evening: "Let me cry on your shoulder." Hair-trigger rumbles explode regularly in dim-sum joints, though Yeung and Kaneshiro are, at least for the fleeting moment, safely in the eye of the storm, stillness sublimely monochromatic as we contemplate whether their "Blondie" could be Karen Wok, the desperately bubbly lass Lai met at a deserted McDonald's one scene earlier. Space is liquid, the frame is elastic -- the glow of neon and the harshness of jukeboxes, foreshortened legs as Reis quivers onanistically, the bulge of the lens accentuated throughout. A bite in the arm can be as much of a memento as a videotape, and bleached hair undyes itself at the end of a romance; only death is definite in Wong's Now, so everything is possible and nothing is forever, both salvation and tragedy for these angels. Cinematography by Chris Doyle.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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