Friday, May 03, 2013
Angel (2007 film)
Based on the novel by Elizabeth Taylor, Angel is the story of a writer who is eager to succeed while enduring all sorts of trials and tribulations throughout the course of her life. Directed by Francois Ozon and screenplay by Ozon and Martin Crimp, the film is a look into the life of a woman who is eager to succeed yet deals with the reality she tries to run away from in her life. Starring Romola Garai, Michael Fassbender, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, and Charlotte Rampling. Angel is a gorgeous yet extravagant melodrama from Francois Ozon.
The film is essentially a rise-and-fall tale told in a melodramatic style about a young girl named Angel Deverell (Romola Garai) who craves to live a life that doesn’t exist as she constantly writes stories filled with imagination and fantasy in the hopes to succeed and live a rich, fabulous life. Once she’s published and becomes successful, she has everything a woman could want in the early 20th Century including the love of her life in an artist named Esme` (Michael Fassbender) and a supportive assistant in Esme’s sister Nora (Lucy Russell). When World War I arrives and Esme` decides to enlist, Angel’s world crumbles little by little as her book sales decline as well as her detachment from reality leading to elements of tragedy and despair.
Francois Ozon’s screenplay that features additional dialogue from Martin Crimp play into that rise and fall schematic where they use a traditional structure to convey the journey of this woman who is ambitious and talented but also very self-centered, melodramatic, and is practically a dreamer. Still, there is something about Angel Deverell that is intriguing for someone who has this idea about what people should strive for and how she expects to be treated. While her publisher Theo (Sam Neill) is intrigued by her ambition as well as the stories she writes. She is disliked by his wife Hermione (Charlotte Rampling) who sees Angel as an outrageous dreamer with no sense of reality. While she does have another admirer in Nora who would eventually become Angel’s caretaker, there are things in Angel’s world that includes the house called Paradise that seems very surreal.
The film’s second half has this sense of collision between reality and fiction where Angel deals with World War I from afar as she starts to not just lose touch with an ever-changing world. She is in complete denial over the fact that her work is too detached from that ever-changing world which doesn’t reflect anything that she is surrounded by. It’s a character who is very flawed and can be very despicable towards people as she would try to get Esme` to paint things that doesn’t really suit what he’s feeling as he couldn’t live up to her idea of what he should be as he is carrying a secret of his own that only his sister and later Theo would know. The third act isn’t just about the tragedy Angel deals with but also some harsh truth that she faces not just about herself but also the world that she had wanted to leave behind in the beginning of the film.
Ozon’s direction is very stylish in not just the way he presents the film as this rise-and-fall melodrama but also in the moments where reality and fantasy collide. Notably as there’s scenes where Angel is traveling with these artificial backdrops to play up this idea that she’s living a life that is extraordinary and lives up to what she thinks is the way to live. There’s compositions that do play up something that would recall these period-costume films filled with lavish set pieces and gorgeous costumes. Even as it plays to that idea of melodrama where a woman is so full of herself as she has to make a grand entrance to make people believe she is great. It’s all part of this world in the film’s first half that builds up to Angel being a woman that people admire and revere for her work.
By the film’s second half, Ozon goes for less artificiality while upping the melodrama even more where it plays into Angel’s sense of denial about the real world as well as the fact that Esme` is a man eager to find himself only to come back the war a ravaged and detached man. With Esme` wanting to pull away from Angel, he has no choice but to come back to her as she welcomes back in a grand style oblivious to what he is feeling. It does lead to this very dreary third act where the shots are much tighter and the drama is stripped-down a bit to unveil the sense of loss of not just what Angel is feeling but also the realization of a world that has changed and in no need of her at the moment which does lead to an ending that is quite extravagant in some respects to who Angel Deverell is. Overall, Ozon creates a very fascinating and exhilarating film about the rise-and-fall of a dreamer.
Cinematographer Denis Lenoir does brilliant work with the film‘s very gorgeous cinematography that is filled with lush images for some of its exteriors and interiors as it‘s colorful as well as intoxicating to look at. Editor Muriel Breton does nice work with the editing to create some wonderful jump-cuts to play with the rhythm while keeping things methodical for some of its drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop, with set decorator Gerard Marcireau and art director Alexandra Lassen, does amazing work with the set pieces from the lavish home that is Paradise to some of the halls and places set in the early 20th Century.
Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does fantastic work with the costumes to play up Angel‘s vivacious personality as it has her becoming a young woman being poor to someone being glamorous with all of these expensive dresses. Visual effects supervisor Daniel Trujillo does terrific work with some of the backdrops that is created in Angel‘s travels to showcase her idea of the world as she‘s disconnected from reality. Sound editor Benoit Hillebrant does excellent work with the sound to capture some of the atmosphere of the intimate moments of the film as well as some of the livelier moments such as the play Angel attends based on one of her books. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is just exquisite for its serene yet soaring orchestral flourishes with some lush string arrangements and melancholic piano pieces to play up the melodrama.
The casting by Karen Lindsay-Stewart is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Simon Woods as an art curator looking into Esme’s work, Christopher Benjamin as Esme` and Nora’s uncle Lord Norley, Jemma Powell as a woman Esme` knew in Angelique, Janine Duvitski as Angel’s aunt Lottie, and Jacqueline Tong as Angel’s mother whom Angel would later claim that she was a famous concert pianist. Charlotte Rampling is wonderful in a small but crucial role as Theo’s wife Hermione who watches Angel from afar with some disdain while later gaining her pity to see how far she’s fallen. Sam Neill is excellent as Angel’s publisher Theo who takes on the young writer as he’s amazed by her work while also falling for her from afar as he also tries to deal with her disconnect from the real world.
Lucy Russell is great as Nora as a woman who goes from an admirer of Angel to someone who is devoted to make sure she is in a good state of mind while forcing to carry secrets to not make Angel lose control. Michael Fassbender is amazing as Esme` as a man eager to succeed with his own approach to art while dealing with the expectations he’s been saddled with when he’s with Angel as he is later undone by his time in World War I. Finally, there’s Romola Garai in a magnificent performance as the titular character as a woman who is clearly someone filled with imagination but couldn’t handle the idea of reality as Garai isn’t afraid to make the character very un-likeable at times while displaying a bit of sympathy to a woman who later endures tragedy in her life.
Angel is a splendid and delightful film from Francois Ozon that features a mesmerizing performance from Romola Garai. Along with a supporting cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, and Ozon cohort Charlotte Rampling. The film is definitely one of Ozon’s most stylish as well as intriguing films that explores the plight of dreamers. While it’s a film that can be overwhelming at times, it is still fascinating to showcase a woman’s rise and fall as she is disconnected from reality. In the end, Angel is an extraordinary film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom - Criminal Lovers - Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Ricky - The Refuge - Potiche - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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