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Kino on Video presents
Fallen Angels (Duo luo tian shi) (1995)

"Partners should never get emotionally involved with each other."
- Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: October 18, 2004

Stars: Leon Lai Ming, Michele Reis, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Karen Mong
Director: Wong Kar-Wai

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence and sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:36m:08s
Release Date: October 19, 2004
UPC: 738329037925
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- BA-B C-

DVD Review

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai is a visual artist of the highest cailber. His films have an undeniably hypnotic quality, creating subjective moods and moments through their lush images. This is a unique cinematic language unto itself, making up for what his scripts may lack. I have great admiration for his creative spirit. Many compare the energy of his films to Godard; this is a fitting comparison, especially in the case of his kinetic, free-wheeling Fallen Angels, intented to be the third storyline in his brilliant Chungking Express, but was cut out due to time restraints.

Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai) is a professional hitman. Aside from a suave, intelligent demeanor that is only replaced by the occasional homicidal tryst, his life seems somewhat aimless and solitary. His home is in an abandoned space among the industrial jungle of Hong Kong, a few floors up from the glassy, wet neon-highlighted street below. It is a quiet space to work and patch wounds, visible only through the windows of a passing L-train. He picks up women when the mood strikes him, though he seems intent on not creating lasting relationships, but rather those that fill the void at a particular moment; longevity is not the foremost on his mind.

His business partner (Michelle Ries), on the other hand, suffers from the same lonely ailment, walking the streets at night sporting sunglasses and a supremely confident gait. Unlike her counterpart, she aims to remedy it. She is the brooding type—sharp, intelligent, but ultimately lost. She longs for the companionship of the hitman, sleeping in his bed, drinking in his favorite bar, playing his favorite songs. She is the logistical force behind his murderous operations, the details of which are not revealed here. The hits are unimportant. Instead, the focus is on the desire for lasting, meaningful relationships, one that is shared by all human beings.

A third protagonist is He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Rendered mute after eating a can of expired pineapple (a nice reference to Chungking Express), his thoughts are heard through frequent voiceover. He makes ends meet by breaking into other people's businesses, causing havoc, and extorting money. Odd? Most certainly, but Kaneshiro manages to paint an expressive, comedically satisfying character without a single line of dialogue. This is a very unique, watchable figure whose antics entertain and baffle. One touching dimension of the film is manifested through Kaneshiro's zany prankster, whose dicey relationship with his father reaches a new level of connection and understanding by the story's final dazzling frames.

An unstructured plot makes way for unique characters whom we subjectively observe in various situations. The emotion-driven visuals are further exemplified by the rich color, various shutter speeds, frame rates, and distortion created by the nearly exclusive use of short, fish-eye lenses. This look can be distracting initially, but master cinematographer Christopher Doyle makes do with Kar-Wai's stylistic vision, utilizing handheld cameras that focus on unexpected details, creating mood, not exposition. Kar-Wai allows these images to flow over driving, recurring musical cues, creating cinematically immersing moments.

Despite the bold visuals of the film, its aimless nature reveals a somewhat thin storyline. There is only so much visuals and mood can accomplish. Aside from Kaneshiro, the acting talent here is nothing outstanding, and their frequent consumption of alcohol and cigarettes can only elevate the characters so far. Where Chungking Express had more profound messages, this entry feels closer to the violent crime themes of the majority of Hong Kong cinema. Granted, this is a film that has its redeeming emotionally introspective moments, but ultimately feels like Kar-Wai on autopilot.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Kino's newly remastered anamorphic transfer looks very good. Colors are well saturated, capturing the Hong Kong underworld with great vibrancy. Contrast is solid, exhibiting solid blacks. There is some occasional grain and print defects to deal with, but this is a clean transfer with a very film-like appearance. Well done.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Cantoneseno

Audio Transfer Review: The Cantonese Dolby 2.0 audio is clear and bright, with some decent dynamic range that supports the unique musical soundtrack. The voiceovers sound somewhat harsh, perhaps due to poor recording. A fine mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
2 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring As Tears Go By, Days of Being Wild, Chungking Express, Happy Together
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills Gallery
  2. Insert with an essay by J. Hoberman of The Village Voice
Extras Review: Kino has neglected to include any substantive extras. The main feature is an extensive trailer gallery, which features original and Japanese trailers for Fallen Angels, Happy Together, Days of Being Wild, an original trailer for As Tears Go By and a Japanese trailer for Chungking Express.

A filmography for cast and crew, a brief stills gallery, and an insert with chapter listings and an essay by J. Hoberman of the Village Voice rounds out the re-issue. This is one of five new Kar-Wai releases from Kino available individually, or in their Wong Kar-Wai Collection box set.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

Wong Kar-Wai's follow-up to Chungking Express is not nearly as successful, but is an engaging, visually hypnotic look at three characters navigating the depths of the Hong Kong underworld. Kino's remastered disc sports good a/v quality, but don't expect stellar extras.


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