Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

The Insistent Blank

One might question the habit of mixing one's inability to connect with others in one's personal life with one's inability to connect with others in business. In Wong Kar-wai's 1995 film Fallen Angels he takes stories originally intended for Chungking Express until that movie's two stories ran long and expands them into another sweet and insightful rumination on lonely people in the city, this time focusing more on their jobs.

The work lives of the protagonists are intimately--or in a way totally incapable of intimacy--wrapped up in their love lives. Instead of one story abruptly ending and the other beginning, this time the movie cuts between the two throughout, one story following a hit man named Wong Chi-Ming (Leon Lai) and his partner (Michelle Reis), the other following a mute, mentally impaired young man named He Zhiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and his delusional and unhinged friend, a young woman named Charlie (Charlie Yeung).

Wong Chi-Ming and his partner have turned their disconnect from each other into a sort of private ballet. Her job is to scout locations and people for Chi-Ming's contracts, then he goes in and kills people. He likes his job, he tells us in voice over narration, because he likes someone else deciding for him whom to kill. He feels that ideally a hit man and his partner should keep as much distance as possible. He carries false pictures of a fictional wife he shows to old schoolmates he runs into. No-one knows him, and he keeps himself from knowing anyone else.

His beautiful partner seems obsessed with him, not unlike Faye in Chungking Express, their lack of intimacy seeming to be a key ingredient in her obsession. We watch her masturbate while thinking about him more than once and she lingers in spaces he once inhabited.

He Zhiwu also speaks to us in voice-over despite the fact that he's unable to speak to anyone else. In an amusing distortion of entrepreneurship, he breaks into places of business at night like butcher shops and ice cream trucks and runs the places as though they were his. His method of procuring customers typically involving tackling them and force-feeding his product. He does this all without speaking, using his "profession" to force the bubble created by his isolation onto other people. He functions in the world, after a fashion, the way he's supposed to but he does so in a way that fundamentally nulls any meaningful connexions, however trivial.

During one of his aggressive customer procurements, he meets Charlie. She seems totally unaware of his attempts to push an advertisement in her face because she's busy having an impassioned telephone conversation. Forced to wait, he's also forced to become privy to her private drama about her boyfriend leaving her for someone called Blondie. This evolves into the two of them riding his bike every night looking for her boyfriend or Blondie, though the places they go seem so random one wonders if Blondie and the boyfriend even exist and whether this is just an excuse for Zhiwu and Charlie to spend time together even though the whole time she only just barely seems aware of his presence, treating him more like an employee.

Yet we do meet a Blondie, a prostitute played by Karen Mok with whom Chi-Ming sleeps with a few times, and she arbitrarily develops a fixation on him. It may be the same Blondie, but I found myself contemplating the idea that Chi-Ming's beautiful unnamed partner is actually a psychic projection of Charlie's. Chi-Ming's partner almost never speaks and it's Charlie, roaming randomly about the city, who seems obsessed with a boyfriend who's run off with someone named Blondie, precisely what one would infer is the partner's problem.

Either way, this is another stylish, wonderful film from Wong Kar-wai.
Tags: fallen angels, movies, wong kar-wai
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