It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Fallen Angels" is the latest work from the Hong Kong wild man Wong Kar-Wai, whose films give the same effect as leafing through hip photo magazines very quickly. It's a riff on some of the same material as his "Chungking Express" (1996), about which I wrote, "You enjoy it because of what you know about film, not because of what it knows about life." I felt transported back to the 1960s films of Jean-Luc Godard. I was watching a film that was not afraid of its audience. Almost all films, even the best ones, are made with a certain anxiety about what the audience will think: Will it like it? Get it? Be bored by it? Wong Kar-Wai, like Godard, is oblivious to such questions and plunges into his weird, hyper style without a moment's hesitation.
To describe the plot is to miss the point. "Fallen Angels" takes the materials of the plot--the characters and what they do--and assembles them like a photo montage. At the end, you have impressions, not conclusions. His influences aren't other filmmakers, but still photographers and video artists--the kinds of artists who do to images what rap artists are doing to music when they move the vinyl back and forth under the needle.
The people in his films are not characters but ingredients, or subjects. They include a hit man and his female "manager," who share separate dayparts in a hotel room that seems only precariously separate from the train tracks outside. (She scrubs the place down before her shift, kneeling on the floor in her leather minidress and mesh stockings.) There is also a man who stopped speaking after eating a can of outdated pineapple slices (pineapple sell-by dates were also a theme in "Chungking Express"). He makes a living by "reopening" stores that are closed for the night, and has an uncertain relationship with a young woman who acts out her emotions theatrically. There is another woman wandering about in a blond wig, for no better purpose, I suspect, than that "Chungking Express" also contained such a character.
Does it matter what these people do? Not much. It is the texture of their lives that Wong is interested in, not the outcome. He records the frenetic, manic pace of the city, exaggerating everything with wide-angle lenses, hand-held cameras, quick cutting, slow motion, fast motion, freeze frames, black and white, tilt shots, color filters, neon-sign lighting, and occasionally a camera that pauses, exhausted, and just stares.