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  • Writer's pictureMatteo Pascale

Film Review of Fallen Angels Directed by Wong Kar- Wai




To review someone's cinematic work, one may start with the film director's beginnings and origin story. Wong Kar- Wai was born in mainland China and it is noted that as a child, he moved to Hong Kong. Jumping years forward to when Wong Kar-Wai was a young adult, he was able to have a lucrative career working as a screenwriter for soap operas in Hong Kong. He had a varied career working in all forms of entertainment including radio, television, production, etc. His momentum for fame would eventually move into directing films of his own making. Many of his films are done completely without scripts and focus on improvisation and collaboration between actors. This means every scene taken will always be completely different and in a different context. In Fallen Angels, Wong Kary-Wai uses the fast-paced life of Hong Kong as a character as well as a setting.


Fallen Angels is an extremely unconventional film that stars Leon Lai, Michelle Reis, and Takeshi Kaneshiro. These three actors are truly heavy hitters when it comes to being cast in Asian cinema. But when it comes to the roles, they are acting in Fallen Angels, the characters are designed to be one-dimensional. In fact, viewing this film's one-dimensional characters interact so bizarrely, is like reading a pulp fiction novel. The film takes place in the early 1990s’ in Hong Kong. It is often labeled on the internet as being, “low-fi science fiction” or “pseudo-science fiction.” Wong Kar- Wai's use of unconventional editing techniques, handheld camera work, and a fragmented narrative structure for Fallen Angels is reminiscent of the French New Wave film movement. When making Fallen Angles, Kar- Wai focused on the gritty urban reality and the marginalized characters within Hong Kong. Wong Kar Wai’s distinctive style is yet another example of auteur theory. This gives Wong Kar- Wai’s films a unique style that has been widely impactful for many Chinese film directors.


The characters are the hitman, played by Leon Lai, and his female manager, Michelle Reis who shares a hotel room by shifts. Each night she sleeps there and cleans up his mess. He arrives in the morning. It seems unclear why and how they are doing this. They are falling in love but never spend time together and are never seen together until the very end. There is also a side story about an 18 or 19-year-old male, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro who lives on the edge and supports himself by breaking into stores and selling the store’s products overnight, pretending to work there. Basically, he is a petty thief. It is unclear why his character is introduced and his role in the film other than to present another unrooted existence. Throughout the film, it contains depictions of marginalized people and their struggles in a rapidly changing society, because of globalization.


Wong Kar- Wai's unusual film Fallen Angels is shot with wide-angle lenses, quick cutting, fast motion, slow motion, black and white freeze frames, tilted shots, neon-sign lights, and color filters. All of this cinematography creates a visual sensation of Hong Kong’s frenetic pace. Wong Kar- Wai emphasized cutting-edge cinematography and audio and sound composition to create a visual drama that leaves the viewer confused and baffled as to who the characters are, how they connect, and what the actual conflict is. It explores ties between characters that are difficult to connect and are superficial. Wai’s characters’ lives seem to have no meaning. Wong Kar- Wai uses unconventional editing techniques, handheld camera work, and a fragmented narrative structure, the visual sensation of the film creates chaos and confusion. The violence is meaningless and has almost no emotional impact because it is so anonymous and clandestine.


There is less impact from the theme of the film since the main characters barely interact or have dialogue. Fallen Angels is a dream-like film that follows the lives of several isolated and lonely characters in Hong Kong at the end of the twentieth century. As described in the IMDb page of the film, “This Hong Kong-set crime drama follows the lives of a hitman, hoping to get out of the business, and his elusive female partner.” - IMDb The impact of the film is hindered because the characters are in some ways too superficial to carry any weight of impact. The film is a visual sensation that leaves the viewer wanting more.


When viewing Fallen Angels, it is equally as confusing as trying to psychoanalyze a pathological liar, because there’s little consistency. The film truly presents a reality where facts from fiction do not apply or are indistinguishable. Fallen Angels in every sense of the word is a story built on individuals presenting themselves with the best alternative facts, they can offer to the story of the film. The most striking flaw in Fallen Angels is how unauthentic the characters are. Additionally, all the one-sided dialogue in the film seems to reduce the momentum of Fallen Angels. It can leave people feeling unsatisfied.


Fallen Angels as a film is only a visual experience and nothing more than that. There is no deeper meaning that can be read into it, or it would have to take huge amounts of mental gymnastics to imagine what it is. If you’re the type of person that likes scenes presented from interesting angles and are so unpredictable and unusual, you will enjoy this film. The characters in Fallen Angles are the perfect representation of what it means to fall from grace. The characters are truly suffering from so many issues that viewing Wong Kar- Wai’s film Fallen Angels is metaphorically speaking like watching Icarus falling.

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