Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Fallen Angels" (1995)

What is the cool? Withering indifference, weapon-like, unsheathed with effortless precision. Indefatigable composure at the sight of a gun. The decision to allow others to make decisions for you. (The hitman who permits the black sunglassed woman to appoint his tasks as she pleases, loved from afar by her -- she who holds his fate in her groomed vengeful hand, and he who doesn't flinch once knowing this -- given completely over, as they are, to erotic fatalism.) We do learn that the cool is also a state of hermetic vulnerability, in spite of its usual appearance of cold glamour; because there's still the one thing which will shatter it completely: l'amour. For the man submerged in cool, and the lady dressed to the hilt in its ruffle and sash, love proves more vicious than death, more cruel. There's no hilarity to be found in the assassin who loses the vigor of his gun.

Sex is vicarious. Imagined through someone else's embrace, in love with another man's wife. Teetering at the touch of a passenger on the metro, in the crush of bodies at rush hour. Masturbation at twilight: imagining one's old conquests, another's faded half-worded confession. Wong Kar-Wai's strength: making a jukebox fantasy out of an array of neon-lit shots and the effusive carnality of a choice song. A woman's orgasm effortlessly simulated by focusing on her stockinged legs folded gingerly on a sofa bed. Add a soundtrack and you've got symphonic ecstasy. Wong uses the camera like a hidden appendage, a fugitive human arm that gets up-close to a human face and slides onto the rim of a lip or feels up the texture of leather feeling up a woman's partly concealed thigh. Visceral post-new wave cinematics. When the story's nowhere to be found, Wong uses his gut emotion, substituting a posture, a statuesque pose, a speeding light or the trail of smoke from the sly phallus of the cigarette, just a semblance of story which is nothing more than a gaze adrift or escaping the criminal behavior of the heart, in love with death because it is the aesthetic suspension of beauty. Just neon and orgasm. Sensation rather than sense. Velocity over meditation.

The other side of the television screen is a television screen. "Blondie" is the marker/marksman inhabiting and adumbrating contiguous alternate worlds. One of the worlds is the actual movie, Wong Kar-Wai's movie, about hipsters imagining what lives assassins and spies lead. Another of the worlds is the actual one, in which people die fairly easily, and hearts are broken more often than made.

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