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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Crime > Gangster > Hong Kong > Fallen Angels (1995/Kino International Blu-ray)

Fallen Angels (1995/Kino International Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: C+     Film: B-



It is amazing how Wong Kar-Wai has such a major following in the U.S. that he is among the earliest foreign directors to see several of his works hit Blu-ray.  I have not been his biggest fan overall, but I will say that with the kind of cinematography that accompanies his work, having Blu-ray helps us see the world he constructs more clearly.  Fallen Angels (1995) started as a part of Chungking Express (his previous film in 1994) but became the successful flip-side to that work instead and Kino International has decided to make it one of their first Blu-ray releases.


His work is haunted by colonialism (including neo-colonialism, post-colonialism and related issues) and he uses his characters to try and explore the effects of cultural changes by interior character studies of those in relationships and their issues in not being able to integrate into each others lives or the changing world around them.  This is not to say that world is as distant as The South in Gone With The Wind or Communist Revolution in Dr. Zhivago since the effects are more subtle and can be more profound.


With two sets of lovers as the de facto title characters, Kar-Wai twists the Gangster genre (especially in Asian cinema, but with Classical Hollywood in mind) around a bit as one pair is a hitman and girlfriend who sets up his hits, as distant and cold as the gangster/gangster moll relationship as ever been to the point of being darkly humorous, while the other couple is also as distant: a phone sex gal and petty thief who get to know each other by sound first.  Sound plays an interesting role in his films.


Then Kar-Wai adds his look and feel to everything, in the way he uses color, the types of lenses he wants, the angles, the fleeting world he has his characters and us live in.  Many thought this was not as involving a film as Chungking Express, but I felt it was more cinematic (the way Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Part One is more cinematic than its character-driven second part) and believe its critics are missing some of his best cinematic moments to date.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is a mix of different types of stocks and images to the point that it is fragmented, even like a documentary to some extent, yet is also about his ideas of change and what is at the moment.  Director of Photography Christopher Doyle delivers the visuals and with Kar-Wai, they have become one of the more prolific filmmaking teams of late.  The clarity of the images here come across very well, but the purposeful choices of stylization and images that are not always clear hold this back overall, but I doubt this could look better on Blu-ray, something I could not say about the Criterion Blu-ray (unreviewed) of Chungking Express.


The film is sometimes noted as being originally a monophonic theatrical release, but the only soundtrack here is a Cantonese DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix and while the music has very impressive articulation all over the soundfield, it also shows the limits of location recording and sound effects.  Still, I doubt this will ever sound better than it does here either.


Extras include Trailers, Stills, 3 Behind The Scenes featurettes and an on-camera interview with DP Doyle.  Kino will next issue Kar-Wai’s Happy Together on Blu-ray, which we will cover soon, so look for it.



For more Kar-Wai, try this coverage of the In The Mood For Love DVD:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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