Film: Fallen Angels (1995)
Directed by: Wong Kar-Wai
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
The chimerical moment. At a standstill–with you in it, with me in it.
And all of the world flutters in transience, always changing and unchanging, coming to a stasis all within a singular moment. No moment is the same. These elusive minutiae are too subtle for the human eye, too soft for the mortal ear, and within the passing second, gone, in their whispering folly and deception. The moment disappears and with it, you. and me along with the fleeting world that was only as-is for that one instance.
Fallen Angels is a montage of these moments, these impressions-in-and-of-time. Standing on the highest plane of lucidity and tight-roping between realism and surrealism, this film does not compromise anything and is hopelessly relentless in its approach, as distorted as it may initially seem.
Those unfamiliar with Wong Kar-Wai might find this stylistically infused film with little to no substance, but there is hardly any truth in that. Upon starting this film and even upon completing it, one might find themselves lost, like a bad trip, unaware of their surroundings and left wondering “what just happened?”. Similar to its prequel Chungking Express (though it stands-alone), we are left hopelessly in a somber daze with conflicting feelings seeping consistently into our skin. We are left, like the characters to figure out our situations, our feelings, and our sensibilities, but the straight road won’t get us there. Therefore, this film shouldn’t be approached with the eyes of inquisition or the mind of reason. Akin to our very reality is what Fallen Angels presents: the reality of people often shrouded in inexplicability, ambiguity, and sometimes on face-value, with no purpose. It has an extremely raw aura which manifests into an uncommon kind of visceral beauty that one can’t help but get attracted to and eventually become enamored with.
Often compared to as a contemporary Godard, Kar Wai isn’t concerned with a linear plot that moves from point A to point B nor is he concerned with the conventional elements of characterization or story-telling. He doesn’t care for it, any of it –and that is distilled harmoniously within every single frame. There is no beginning nor is there an end; similar to time and the themes he explores, his films are a continuum–of moments and especially those within them, often tinged with a looming melancholy and a flaunting reality. Why is that anything to goad over? Because it’s the next best thing to being there.
Fallen Angels thus is an invigorating piece of cinema that is comprised of impressions and these single impressions are the driving force of the film and a trademark style of Kar-Wai. Essentially, this film follows a disillusioned hit-man and a set of other oddball characters including his mercurial partner who he rarely meets but has feelings for, a mute with bizarre habits, and a jaded lover. Expect no linearity or concreteness, as the film, like water, molds to the shape that Kar-Wai carves out and that shape changes sporadically and at whim. Yet, the film always remains in order. It isn’t subjected to chaos nor does it seem a product of whimsical direction, even though the film appears largely experimental with its direction.
After 600-some words, these words above might seem futile since they have barely done little to nothing to recapture the film or at least, deconstruct it elementally. To do such a thing would be a waste, because what Kar-Wai does here is magical and can only really be experienced. Sure, I can imbue this blatantly apologist piece with padded analysis of the excellent usage of color and tone, or the cut-angles that blur the edge of reality, or the visceral soundtrack, or the meticulous framing, or the thematic musings, or the other countless things that makes this film an unforgettable experience and a piece of cinematic delight.
But I won’t.
Find your moment and I assure you that you will– instilled, immortalized, and inscribed–in Fallen Angels.