I wrote this review of Fallen Angels for Reverse Shot's An Infinite Cinema symposium, dedicated to the work of Chinese master Wong Kar-wai and running concurrent with a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Moving Image in New York City, July 12 - August 24, 2013.
They come out at night, those folkloric, bloodthirsty wraiths; but so too the vagrant mortals populating Wong Kar-wai's 1995 twilit tale of unrequited passion, Fallen Angels. These vanquished beings, these rebels of the neon god, may subsist in the witching hour, yet they yearn for the blessings afforded the social and urbane: the pleasure of a warm communion, the comfort of a mutual intimacy, the breadth of a lasting romance. Constrained by limitations both professional and physical, the five central characters comprising Wong’s mirrored narrative proceed in cyclical patterns, as if caught in a chain of criminality and confusion. Our “heroes”—a hit man and his lovelorn partner; a mute, ethically dubious ex-con; a scorned lover; and a blonde femme fatale—such as they are, all seek escape, yet seem to reside in the shadows as a step toward the light would require a courage they have yet to fully muster. These tumultuous emotional coordinates, charted via Wong's achingly beautiful montage, render Fallen Angels the most existential of action flicks, a fluorescent fever dream of kinetic energies and inarticulate amour fou.