Wednesday, September 10, 2008

[DVD] Fallen Angels (Duo Luo Tian Shi) (1995)

Complicated Love

I've got a strange affinity with Wong Kar-wai's movies, and they seem to somehow present themselves in reverse order to me, where often I find myself visiting his earlier works backwards. Like watching 2046 first before In the Mood for Love, or right now, watching Fallen Angels before Chungking Express, where I have both movies on DVDs sitting on the shelves, but decide to pick Angels before Chungking, knowing jolly well that this one came after, and was like the film that expanded itself so much that it had to break away and stand alone on its own two feet.

Deciding between Chungking Express and Fallen Angels also boiled down to pure laziness on my part to want to pop a Region Free DVD into my default player, hence the latter. And I can't help but to chuckle at how Leon Lai's killer character Wong Chi Ming paralleled this laziness of mine, in wanting things on a sliver platter, of getting the preparation work all set out for him, and he just enters the scene with his swagger as the executioner. And the woman behind him acting as his agent and cleaning lady, is played by Michelle Reis.

As his agent, she gets the contracts, does the legwork to draw up plans, and with time as she hangs out at his apartment to clean it up, she nurses an aching heart, knowing that perhaps in their profession, to fall in love would spell doom. And it doesn't take one too long to identify with such longing, of being so near yet so far, and she exorcises her unrequited passion by either visiting the places he visits just to hang on to his lingering presence long after he's gone, or by pleasuring herself on his bed. Kinda kinky, don't you think?

While Chungking Express dealt with the relationship issues that two cops had to experience (from my fuzzy knowledge of it anyway), Fallen Angels seemed to be its evil twin, again dealing with relations of the heart, but now from the viewpoints centered on two criminals, one in Lai's character, and here the other in Takeshi Kaneshiro (who was also in Chungking Express) with his mute He Zhiwu, who breaks into shops and plays plenty of make belief. In his story arc, his unrequited love stems from his chance encounter with Charlie Young's Charlie, who too suffers a broken heart, but goes over the bend. In fact, I would have thought that Eating Air took a huge leaf out of certain aspects of their courtship, especially with the lovers on a bike careening through Hong Kong's underground highways. And Charlie Young I thought did substantially more than the flower vase roles she's more famous for perfecting.

While Zhiwu can't speak, it is perhaps this arc that has a lot to say about love in classic WKW pathos. We listen in to the thoughts of Zhiwu as he narrates them in Mandarin voiceovers, such as topics of relationships having their expiration date, and the keeping of someone's memory alive. With Chi-Ming, he consciously rejects someone who takes an extreme liking of him, to go for a random, temporary lover in the form of Karen Mok's Blondie, who again might be another throwback to a similar character back in Chungking Express. But being cautionary here, is yet again the tale of not incurring the wrath of the wrong woman, though I chose to interpret the events in his story thereafter as being one of a set up, or a fix, versus just being a case of coincidental bad luck.

And you cannot get away with not talking about frequent WKW collaborator Christopher Doyle's cinematography in this film, with its obtuse angles like a fish eye twitching all around with plenty of kinetic energy, boasting of shots within shots with its use of captured mirror images. Time lapse also gets used quite frequently, giving it a sense of broad fast forwarding motion, with the devil in the details treated quite casually. With a variation of Massive Attack's Karma Coma by Roel Garcia featured in an eclectic soundtrack, the film already bowled me over with its collection of songs featured, where I continue to be impressed by WKW's taste in music to include in his movies, just like I am of Tarantino's.

Love stories that don't go anywhere except to serve as personal reminders, familiar pathos as presented by WKW, a star studded cast and excellent visuals and music, easily make this film one of my firm favourites. I suppose I shouldn't waste too much time before embarking on my journey onboard the more illustrious Chungking Express.

The Region Free DVD from Mei Ah is the latest Remastered Edition presented in Anamorphic widescreen format with almost pristine transfer without the pops and cackles that were evident in the Theatrical Trailer (2:41) included here. Audio is presented in either Mandarin Dolby Digital, or Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are available in either Traditional or Simplified Chinese and English, and scene selection is split into 6 chapters.

Unfortunately, not much extras are included here other than the trailer, and the Databank was text based, and nothing more than whatever is already printed on the back cover of the DVD.

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