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Issue #161 HOME E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com BACK ISSUES May 26th, 2003

Fallen Angels
(1995; Jet Tone Production)

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Doh lok tin si
Mandarin: Duo luo tian shi
English: Fallen Angels

Wong Kar-wai's follow-up to CHUNGKING EXPRESS is very much in the same style and spirit as that film. Reportedly, one of the stories in this film was originally planned for its forerunner and a modicum of the footage here was also left over from that project. Some have accused Wong of simply repeating himself with FALLEN ANGELS but, more accurately, the two movies are interconnected, utilizing the same stylistic approach and recurring motifs (like the resonant use of a pop song).

Love, again, provides the main narrative linchpin, along with the fleeting bonds created by random encounters. Ming (Leon Lai Ming), a suave but lazy assassin, receives his orders from The Agent (Michelle Lee Kar-yan/Michelle Reis), a beautiful, melancholy, chain-smoking woman dressed in various provocative outfits. She is obsessed with him but he's never even met her once during the nearly three years they have been working together. The Agent lives in a building owned by the father of He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Mute since the age of five (when he ate a can of expired pineapple), Qiwu is a free spirit in the most uninhibited sense. "Re-opening" various stores in the middle of the night and conducting business with passersby (whether they want to or not), Qiwu exists in his own world even when spending time with his aged father. After one close call too many, Ming decides to hang up his gun. Informing The Agent in a rather unique, albeit characteristically passive manner, he encounters blonde-wigged "Baby" (Karen Mok Man-wai), who hides her loneliness beneath a berserk exterior. While making his rounds, Qiwu continually encounters Charlie (Charlie Yeung Choi-nei; image), an even more deranged girl, who is out to get revenge on someone named "Blondie" for stealing her man. Qiwu develops feelings for Charlie but she is far too single-minded and vacant to notice.

Like CHUNGKING EXPRESS, the visuals and structure are aggressively offbeat and the film is filled with a joyous, creative energy (even when the characters are brooding endlessly) that makes almost every set-up seem magical. The action unfolds at every speed and cadence imaginable, the editing and camerawork alternate freely between hyper and comatose, and the image is both over and undersaturated. Grain, glare and overt distortions are stylistic enhancements. Musical underpinning comes courtesy of Frankie Chan Fan-kei and Roel A. Garcia's très chic score, supplemented by songs from Laurie Anderson, Marianne Faithful, Shirley Kwan Suk-yee, and others. While there are resonant moments running the gamut from darkly comic (such as one poor man's misfortune to continually be one of Qiwu's "customers," culminating in he and his family being forced to consume gallons of ice cream!) to poignant (Qiwu's relationship with his understandably exasperated but loving father), FALLEN ANGELS is also filled with some marvellous asides, such as when Ming (who has just performed a hit and is trying to keep a low profile) runs into an obnoxious junior high classmate who won't leave him alone. If it takes a darker view of life and love than the unabashed romanticism of the previous film, FALLEN ANGELS still manages to end on an upbeat note, leaving one both smiling and dazzled. The film won the cinematography, music, and Best Supporting Actress (Karen Mok) prizes at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Cover art courtesy Kino On Video.

Karen Mok and Leon Lai. Image courtesy Kino On Video.

Michelle Lee. Image courtesy Kino On Video.

Charlie Yeung and Takeshi Kaneshiroi. Image courtesy Kino On Video.
Kino on Video #K120 DVD (U.S. Label)

Dolby Digital 2.0

Sync Sound Cantonese Language Track

Permanent English Subtitles

12 Chapters Listed in the Menu

Letterboxed (1.60:1)

Coded for ALL Regions

NTSC Format

96 Minutes

Contains moderate violence, mild sexual content, and coarse language

DVD menu courtesy Kino On Video.

Australia: M 15+ (Medium Level Violence, Sexual References, Low Level Coarse Language)
Great Britain: 15
Hong Kong: II
Ontario: AA (Not Recommended for Children, Violence)
Singapore: PG [Passed With Cuts]

Wong Kar-wai's movies, post AS TEARS GO BY, are not exactly easy to evaluate on video. Compared to the HK DVD from Ocean Shores, Kino's transfer is sharper with more detailed contrasts and somewhat richer colors. Ocean Shores' source print has less wear and Kino's sound is a bit scratchy but these faults are not too distracting and the U.S. release is the better choice. Kino's rather Anglocentric English subtitles are contained in opaque strips and cannot be removed. The disc comes with a theatrical trailer and the back cover write-up makes the rather lazy error of referring to the director as "Kar-wai" and to the characters by names that differ from the ones provided in their subtitles. The inside cover offers an excerpt from a Village Voice article about the film by J. Hoberman.

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