My friend told me to watch Fallen Angels and so I did finally.
I liked it quite a bit. I'd say it has some of the best sequences I've ever seen in WKW's films and I also haven't laughed as quite as hard in a film of his before. The mute character, especially with his relationship with his father, absolutely killed me (unsurprisingly), and I'm not used to seeing that side of WKW being that I see him as more close to Antonioni with a Nouvelle-Nouvelle Vague spirit than explorations of the direct familial poignancy a la Ozu/Yang. So in ways, I find those parts to be of my favorite stuff he's done. And of course, there's an absolute aliveness to all his films, which I would suspect derives from his impulsive working methods. Every shot framed meticulously but presented sporadically in how asymmetrically dense they really are. The mixture of wide angle lensing (6.5 mm!), handheld movements, canted angles, staccato like cutting, color filters, slowmos, and time lapses, all of these choices making the film burst with ideas that seem to come out of nowhere. If a writer thought the script was verbatim (which it's not) before production, his mind would explode.
And that is where I think I may have to re-view it a week later or so because if spontaneity is WKW's strength, it is also his achilles heel when consciously trying to connect his moment-to-moment stew concocted of his well crafted cinematic pineapple chunks. The hardest obstacle for him is to keep up with his own constantly evolving imagination, and even harder to bring it altogether in the editing room in a way that doesn't seem obvious, which would betray his style. In Chungking Express, the two parts were bifurcated into halves whose connections seemed elusive in a causal sense, but felt meant for each other in other ways (visually, location, theme, music, etc.). And I do like how he encourages the viewer to make their own connections by thinning out causality. Fallen Angels takes a similar approach, but the two halves are conjoined at the end by coincidence and it feels somewhat like a copout. Because of his adoration of instinctiveness, his films move like music, but when they are interrupted by things that force literal connections to the unconscious magic of music, it feels off and dead.
Jean Renoir liked the idea of passive-aggression in art. First you do, then you think (edit/create). If you think and plan beforehand, it will deter your work that you plan to do and force it into an over analytical rut that seems unnatural and awkward. I don't agree or disagree with this notion (Ozu was just as much as a pre-production freak as Hitch) as it does depend on the person, but I feel this is how Wong works. Only with Fallen Angels, the doing overextended the after-thinking, on top of probably loving too many sequences to cut them out, and then forcing an unnaturally weak tie-up to bring it together. (If you want to force unification, at least make it a spectacle like the frog rain in Magnolia)
Still a good film with extraordinary sequences tho.