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FALLEN ANGELS (1995), Wong Kar Wai

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

“Fallen Angels’” is the fifth picture of Chinese film director Wong Kar-Wai, a master of surrealist stories and collage-like plots, certainly someone many may compare to film directors Gregg Araki, David Lynch, and Jean-Luc Godard. The film draws from some of the same content present in Kar-Wai’s “Chungking Express” (1994), since both films are based in Hong-Kong and present a series of bizarre characters that make the films so unique and odd.

“Fallen Angels” was screened at the BFI, Southbank for their ‘World of Wong Kar-Wai’ season, which will be running for the whole month of July.

At first, the characters in “Fallen Angels” may look like just a bunch of outcasts. With their charming weirdness and obsessions, each one of them has a peculiar story to tell. There isn’t a specific plot per se – Kar-Wai beautifully brings the characters’ lives together, even when they seem to be so different from each other. He takes inspiration from photography, cinematically collaging the scenes to create chaos and exhilarating oddity. “Fallen Angels” is the dark side of “Chungking Express”, exposing the fragile elements of society’s creatures of the night.

The first story narrates the shenanigans of a hitman and his female manager who share separate parts of the days in a hotel room close to the train tracks. The manager, infatuated with the hitman, regularly sends him faxes with the blueprints of the places he has to hit and spends most nights at the bar he usually visits, hoping to bump into him. The song number 1818 on the jukebox is a recurring element in their love story, which leads both characters to platonically connect with each other.

Living in the same building as the female manager is a delinquent who becomes mute after eating expired pineapple slices. He makes a living by reopening stores that are closed overnight and forces people to pay him for services they haven’t asked for. Charlie, a woman he frequently comes across, has lost her mind after her boyfriend, Johnny, left her for a girl called ‘Blondie’. The mute falls in love with her (for the first time in his life) and his hair starts turning blonde. Other characters, a euphoric blonde girl and a restaurant owner, intertwine with the main characters, both linking up the dots in the different plots and creating confusion.

With all things considered, explaining these plots is rather futile. “Fallen Angels” is not a film for your average moviegoer. It’s both dark, comic, shocking and hilarious; a pastiche of night owls’ worlds who share a love story of some sort. Each one of them is looking to fulfil their purpose and connect with others. The framing of the scenes contributes to the intensity of the film, making it a ride of frenetic traffic lights and Hongkonger life. Kar-Wai cleverly brings together the stories and hands them out to us – the spectator takes them in and sits still.

The credits come up. It’s the end.

By Iman Cavargna-Sani Initially developed as part of CHUNGKING EXPRESS, FALLEN ANGELS (1995) shares a similar freewheeling spirit but is a much darker and moodier affair, exploring the nocturnal lives of assassins, femme fatales and mute ex-cons. Shot with frenetic verve, it’s a stylish drama laced with quirky humour that glimmers with the neon magic of Hong Kong at night. The BFI and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), in partnership with Janus Films, today announces the WORLD OF WONG KAR WAI, screening on BFI Player and through the ICA’s newly launched online platform ‘Cinema 3’ during February2021. With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema. This retrospective of the Hong Kong master filmmaker, including 7 brand-new 4K restorations, 5 of which have been overseen by Wong Kar Wai himself (full credits of which can be found in the notes to editors), will be available via the ICA’s digital programme platform Cinema 3 (from 1 February) and BFI Player (from 8 February).

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