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Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: Wong Kar-Wai's 'Fallen Angels' at LACMA

November 17, 2010 |  4:05 pm

Fallen Angels

Wong Kar-Wai is a mood-maker as much as a moviemaker. For a Hong Kong night spent in the underbelly of the beast, it's hard to beat his 1995 "Fallen Angels," with a lush new print screening Friday night at 7:30 at LACMA.

This midnight trip (and I mean "trip" in the literal and pharmaceutical sense) into the lives of a contract killer going through a professional change of heart and his partner in crime, a beauty who favors long bangs, red lipstick and leather, is a voyeur's dream. Or better still, a strange confessional, with the characters narrating their stories as they move through the night.

It's a world that comes to us in slices and slivers, beautifully parsed, so beautifully, in fact, that it's mesmerizing to watch without sound. But then you'd miss the dialogue being conducted by the music, which is its own elixir, a sort of smoky scotch of sound. The director shot with the intention of making it the final chapter of a trilogy that began with the visual locomotive of "Chungking Express." But "Fallen Angels" turned out to be so distinctive, demanding to stand alone, that became its destiny, so we should thank the fates.

Though the film is now 15 years old, it isn't showing its age, with an au courant subtext of the disaffection and disconnection of modern urban life coursing through it. The Chinese auteur is a master at knowing how to play the beats of an unfolding scene, when to pause, when to hurry things along. The only regret is the ending, not that it won't satisfy or surprise, only that the lights will come up and only the memory will linger.

–- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: A scene from Wong Kar-Wai's "Fallen Angels." Credti: LACMA

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