Review: ‘Welcome Says the Angel’

An unusual, claustrophobic tale of dependency, "Welcome Says the Angel" is a no-budget venture that demonstrates sufficient skill to garner some specialized theatrical play and serve as a solid calling card for its creators. While the bare bones of the yarn are familiar, there's enough low-budget invention to overcome its obvious physical and narrativeconstrictions. It looks like a sure bet for fest attention.

An unusual, claustrophobic tale of dependency, “Welcome Says the Angel” is a no-budget venture that demonstrates sufficient skill to garner some specialized theatrical play and serve as a solid calling card for its creators. While the bare bones of the yarn are familiar, there’s enough low-budget invention to overcome its obvious physical and narrativeconstrictions. It looks like a sure bet for fest attention.

The simple saga centers on Joshua (Jon Jacobs), a drifter from England who lands in the mean streets of L.A. In a seedy Hollywood bar, he’s befriended by Ana (Ayesha Hauer), another wandering Euro, and the two go off to her loft.

Following a night of intimacy, Joshua awakes to find himself cuffed to the hulk of a vintageOldsmobile (presumably a failed attempt at artistic expression). His wallet’s been purloined and the young woman is nowhere to be found. When Ana returns, she’s tripping out from a heroin fix. And she’s not about to free her cash captive.

Though it unravels at a leisurely pace, the tale, written by Jacobs and director Philippe Dib, maintains an air of mystery and curiosity that’s simultaneously unnerving and engrossing.

The verbal interplay between the two actors is essentially banal. But they strike a chord that rings true, and embody characters whose plight seems authentic and immediate. It’s not so much love that drives them apart and brings them back together as a need for companionship. As they develop a bond, Joshua’s zeal to get the woman off drugs is less about passion and more a personal check concerning his own sobriety.

Filmed in a stark, spare manner, “Welcome Says the Angel” benefits from its visual simplicity and an eerie musical track composed by Nels Cline and George Lockwood. But it’s truly the chemistry between Jacobs and Hauer that glues the pieces together. While neither is conventionally attractive, they have a raw energy and naivete that are appealing.

Though his film is unquestionably a testament to making the most of nothing, Dib is still culpable of such youthful indulgence as stray, artful images and lingering too long on dialogue that’s not as clever as it pretends to be. Somehow, however, these lapses don’t seriously impugn the picture’s integrity or the forceful depiction of slightly desperate, if inviolable, marginalia.

Welcome Says the Angel

Production

A Silver Shadow release of a Brothers Kastenbaum production in association with Terra Pictures and Matt Devlen. Produced by Michael Kastenbaum, Seth Kastenbaum. Executive producer, Geraldine Sutton. Co-producers, Devlen, Ethan Holzman. Directed by Philippe Dib. Screenplay, Jon Jacobs, Dib. Camera (color), Gabor Satanyi; editor, Keith Rouse; music, Nels Cline, George Lockwood; production design, Clare Brown; sound, Lockwood; assistant directors, Fred Hess, Phil Dupont. Reviewed on videocassette, Feb. 14, 1996. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Joshua ... Jon Jacobs Ana ... Ayesha Hauer Charley ... Leroy Jones Waitress ... Marian O'Brien
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