Film: Fallen Angels (Hong Kong)

Dir: Wong Kar-Wai, M, Hong Kong S.A.R., China, 1995, 99mins, Subtitled

In the space of two years, Wong Kar Wai released Chungking Express (1994), the historical epic Ashes of Time (1994) and his neon-soaked ode to the city, Fallen Angels (1995).

In an interview Wong explained, ‘The hitman (character) originally came from the third story of Chungking Express but I only shot two stories, hence I developed the (third).’

The ‘fallen angels’ stalking the backstreets of Wong Kar-Wai’s Hong Kong are a wordless hitman (Leon Lai), his PVC-clad fixer (Michele Reis), a dolly punk with a Brigitte Lin-style wig (Karen Mok), a jilted lover (Charlie Yeung) and an anarchic ex-con (Takeshi Kaneshiro).

Their lives intersect in the city streets in true Wong Kar-Wai style: hearts must be broken. In interviews for the release of the film, the director spoke of this emotional dislocation, ‘now everyone knows how to protect themselves; everyone understands loving someone can often hurt’.

With the exception of Takeshi Kaneshiro and Charlie Young, Fallen Angels features an entirely new cast, which lends an underground quality to the film, backed by the handheld, almost documentary, shooting style.

With its freeform plotting and ultra-stylised aesthetics, Fallen Angels still feels contemporary, even two decades after its original release.

This 4K digital restoration was undertaken from the 35mm original camera negative by the Criterion Collection in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata and Jet Tone. It was supervised and approved by Wong Kar-Wai.

Notes by Kristy Matheson.

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