Wong Kar-Wai burst onto the Hong Kong film scene with Days of Being Wild, bringing a new energy and a bold aesthetic. He is probably best known in the west for In the Mood for Love and Chungking Express.
If In the Mood for Love is a refined and genteel lady, Fallen Angels is her chain-smoking alt rock sister. Inhabiting the same world as Chungking Express, Fallen Angels is a film about alienation and connections.
Ming is a contract killer. He states that his profession suits him because he is a lazy man. The question of who dies, when and where is all decided for him; all he has to do is follow instructions. His agent is a stunningly beautiful woman with whom he communicates through pager messages. She also cleans his home when he's not there, dusting and mopping in a PVC dress, fishnet stockings and high heels. She goes through his trash to learn more about him and, sometimes, she masturbates on his bed. Her neighbour is He Zhiwu, a small-time criminal who breaks into shops when they are closed so he can run their business at night. He has not spoken a word since he ate a can of expired pineapples when he was 5 years old. He falls in love with Cherry, another denizen of the night, who is obsessed with another man.
The strength of Wong's films has never been the stories but the mood that is evoked. In one perfect scene, Cherry sits oblivious and wrapped in her own thoughts while He leans in and retreats and leans in and retreats again, capturing all the longing, hopefulness and uncertainty of new love. He and Cherry's boisterous energy is a sharp contrast to Ming and his agent's cool languour. Ming is played by Hong Kong superstar Leon Lai but it is Takeshi Kaneshiro as He who fascinates. More boy than man, he is a whirlwhind of lanky limbs who is expressive without talking.
Wong and his director of photography, Christopher Doyle, were a cinematic match made in heaven. They created films that looked like no others. For Fallen Angels, the use of extreme wide angles and oversaturated colours give the film a contemporary feel despite being 18 years old. Jazzy and hypnotic, it has a tender heart and a wistful sadness.
Available on DVD.
With "Into the Vault", I will be looking at older films that were overlooked on first release or deserve a second viewing. The series will appear on the first Thursday of every month.