Wong Kar Wai doesn’t believe in making films on routine people or subjects. And it’s not just his idiosyncratic characters and breathtaking visuals that blow you away; he somehow waves a magic wand and infuses life into a mannequin, making a memorable character out of it. Not to say his actors aren’t excellent, somehow it’s his own majestic treatment – his skillful puppetry – that gives his works a character.
Bible doctrinates Fallen Angels to be ostracized from Heaven; Master Wong Kar Wai dictates them to be ostracized from reality seeking refuge in their own carefully preserved psychotic worlds – far from the maddening crowd, but in their own mad spaces. All of them have defined their own rules that in turn define them as some outcasts in a fast-paced world – as if they fallen from the grace of God, and are merely waiting for their own judgment days, walking around in a cloak like a beggar gone berserk because of a heatstroke… senile, vagabond and inconspicuous. WKW has brought these angels under the lens.
Fallen Angels, originally meant to be a part of Chungking Express, was spun off into a separate movie because of its deviation, and although it seems like a continuation, it is different in many ways.
After countless hits, an assassin, Leon, wants out – he has had enough of his unpredictable and dangerous profession. To do so, he informs his accomplice and confidante, a beautiful middle-woman, Michelle, who arranges his jobs for him more out of her affections (unknown to him) for him, than for the money. Leon is not exactly in love with Michelle, but he does wonder sporadically about her and seems to like her. Even though they never actually meet, just the thought of Leon gives Michelle countless orgasms and an explicable high for life. Yet they are both extremely professional, who follow the principle of “never mixing pleasure with work” religiously, and keep their emotions in check. In the meanwhile, Leon engages in a short-lived romance with a blond Chinese woman for kicks. Finally meeting a visibly upset Michelle, he decides to do a parting-job as a favor to her, but the job goes awfully wrong. Was he betrayed by someone?
On a parallel track, a mute man gone berserk (He Qiwu who made an appearance in Chungking Express), who believes in being his own boss, intimidates other people to buy his goods and services. On one of his adventures, he meets another strange woman, Charlie, jilted by her lover, who devises various schemes to kill the woman responsible for her heartbreak. In the whole process, the mute idiot falls in love with her, but realizes soon that she is still obsessed with her ex-lover. Qiwu is back to square one, lonely, finding his occasional happiness in making home movies with his father as the subject, and finding a stable job. He eventually ends up running into Charlie again, now an airhostess, who asks him for a lift home, reminiscent of scenes from Chungking Express. The End.
The central relationships between the two couples (and other peripheral ones) in the movie are like the fog that settles over a city every night and disappears the next morning. Every relationship is ephemeral, more a convenience than a deep-rooted, intense, emotional and physical connection that lingers around like a season. Leon, a lazy, carefree killer, doesn’t like to make decisions, so he has Michelle running his chores, and this leads to certain attraction that is more a result of mystery than compatibility or love. The crazy mute man Qiwu is attracted to the girl he helps, as she helps him and it’s a perfect relationship until she gets bored of her meaningless quest and leaves. As Qiwu sobers down (after his antics involving threatening his customers to buy his products, selling them to prospects in crazy hours of the night, chasing after people), he develops a new obsession of capturing his father with his new camera, watching the videos repeatedly after he passes away. The ex-boyfriend obsessed Charlie also straightens up her act and becomes an airhostess.
Strangeness is written all over the characters, in ways more than one, but this movie is also about realizations. Although, how and why each character evolves is unique in its own way. There are no emotional explosions, intense dialogues, startling revelations or defining dénouements; just aimless, albeit beautiful, explorations of dysfunctional minds that are as honest as they are demented. WKW makes the viewer skim devour the tasty but light cream floating on the surface of milk without the heaviness of milk itself. He boldly experiments with this baby of his – dressing it up in strange attire and feeding it with strange concoctions, and in the end delivers a real winner somehow. The black and white montage interspersed with color, coupled with multiple angles, and somewhat amateurish shots make it more real than it is (and that’s a difficult job for a movie that is as surreal in many ways, as it is real). As he does in he shoots the wackier characters walking in trance, locked-up in their own worlds, indulging in self-pleasures in their own unthinkable ways, in fast moving backgrounds (although in essence he establishes the Chungking Express,Fallen Angels as the wilder cousin, with its rash but appealing handling). Charlie’s soliloquy while she is sitting with a blank Qiwu deserves a special mention in this regard – watch it and you’ll know why.
The one noticeable thing about this movie is the pace – the characters in Fallen Angels are as fast as the world around them, responding dynamically, whereas in WFW’s other works, they can’t quite keep up.
If you are NOT In the mood for love, and don’t wish to take the Chungking Express, and travel to 2046, then watch the Fallen Angels get impaled. It is one helluva visual journey. It is simply WKW unplugged!