×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Angel

A monumental piece of miscasting in the title role, and an apparently tin ear for the nuances of English dialogue by Gallic helmer Francois Ozon, clip the wings of "Angel" pretty much from the get-go.

With:
With: Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Tong, Janine Duvitzki, Christopher Benjamin, Una Stubbs, Jemma Powell, Simon Woods, Seymour Matthews. (English dialogue)

A monumental piece of miscasting in the title role, and an apparently tin ear for the nuances of English dialogue by Gallic helmer Francois Ozon, clip the wings of “Angel” pretty much from the get-go. Good-looking adaptation of late British scribe Elizabeth Taylor’s story of a young femme novelist’s rise and fall in Edwardian England looks set to thud to earth in Anglo markets, though it may fly higher as a dubbed or subtitled item in non-English-speaking territories. Arthouse aficionados of Ozon’s earlier pics won’t be amused.

Taylor’s 1957 novel, inspired by late 19th- and early 20th-century Brit writer Marie Corelli, was atypical of her oeuvre, and in fact satirized the overheated melodramas of the period. Pic makes it clear early on that the title character, Angel Deverell, has only a micron of talent. But stripped of any irony, let alone wit, the movie ends up as empty and flowery as the literature (and person) it should be satirizing.

Worse, the dialogue sounds like an English translation of a French edition and the performances, by a largely talented cast, seem curiously out of synch throughout. (Same problem affected Ozon’s mixed-dialogue “Swimming Pool,” though to a lesser degree.) Delivery is closer to the simplistic, declamatory style of a kidpic or a British pantomime, topped by a lead perf from up-and-comer Romola Garai that would be more at home on the London legit stage of the period. At no point does Garai make the fame-struck, self-absorbed Angel likable or even sympathetic.

What’s left is a colorfully costumed, two-and-a-quarter-hour haul through the life of a talentless bore, without either the spoofy humor of Ozon’s previous genre parody, “8 Women,” or the emotional grace notes of his finest movie, “Under the Sand.”

Pic opens in slow-clad 1905, with Angel, daughter of a provincial grocer (Jacqueline Tong), already a self-centered teen who pours out her romantic flights of fantasy on paper. When she finally gets a positive reply to her potboiler “Lady Urania” from a London publisher, Theo (Sam Neill), she hightails it up to the big city, convinced that success and recognition are her birthrights.

Theo recognizes a raw (and marketable) facility and, though Angel refuses to change a comma of her overheated prose — strewn with gaffes like “opened a champagne bottle with a corkscrew” –he signs her up. “Urania” and Angel’s subsequent outpourings are eaten up by pre-WWI Edwardian society.

Now wealthy, Angel buys a country manse, Paradise, she’d always dreamed of living in, and takes on as a personal secretary the adoring Nora (Lucy Russell), sister of handsome but tortured painter Esme (Michael Fassbender), whom she has her eye on. But the arrival of the war and the failure of her relationship with Esme sour Angel’s success.

Seemingly deprived of any strong direction, thesps largely perform as if they’re in different movies. Most successful is Neill, as Angel’s tolerant but bottom-line publisher, who brings a measure of subtlety to his role but still acts in a vacuum. Fassbender (“300”) looks the part but delivers his conflicted-artist dialogue sans conviction, and there’s no genuine sexual electricity between him and Garai (a recurrent problem in Ozon’s portrayals of male-female relationships).

Others phone in their perfs, from Charlotte Rampling as Theo’s soignee wife to Russell as the devoted, closeted Nora, whose attraction to Angel is made explicit in one scene.

Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne and production designer Katia Wyszkop have a field day with duds and artifacts, creating a heightened, chocolate-box version of Edwardian England –shot in Britain and Belgium — with d.p. Denis Lenoir an able accomplice. Composer Philippe Rombi wraps the whole shebang in a full-tilt symphonic score that similarly aims to capture the flavor of a’50s-style Hollywood studio production but ends up feeling strangely empty.

Angel

France-U.K.-Belgium

Production: A Wild Bunch Distribution (in France)/Cinemien (in Belgium) release of a Fidelite presentation of a Fidelite (France)/Poisson Rouge Pictures (U.K.)/Scope Pictures (Belgium) production, in association with FOZ, Virtual Films, Wild Bunch, France 2 Cinema, Celluloid Dreams, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier. Executive producer, Tanya Seghatchian. Co-producers, Christopher Granier-Deferre, Genevieve Lemal, Alexandre Lippens. Directed by Francois Ozon. Screenplay, Ozon, Martin Crimp, from the book by Elizabeth Taylor.

Crew: Camera (color), Denis Lenoir; editor, Muriel Breton; music, Philippe Rombi; production designer, Katia Wyszkop; art director, Nick Palmer; costume designer, Pascaline Chavanne; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Mertens, Benoit Hillebrant, Dean Humphries; make-up, Gill Robillard; hair, Marese Langan; Esme's paintings, Gilbert Pignol; assistant director, Dominique Delany; casting, Karen Lindsay Stewart. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (closer -- competing), Feb. 17, 2007. Running time: 134 MIN.

With: With: Romola Garai, Sam Neill, Lucy Russell, Michael Fassbender, Charlotte Rampling, Jacqueline Tong, Janine Duvitzki, Christopher Benjamin, Una Stubbs, Jemma Powell, Simon Woods, Seymour Matthews. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • China Film Group's Jiang Ping

    Shanghai: China Studio Chiefs Debate Winter Chills and U.S. Rivalry

    The Shanghai International Film Festival pulled off the impressive feat of assembling leading executives from seven of China’s top film studios. Their discussion focused on the problems that have recently beset the production sector and the industry’s relationship with Hollywood. “The film industry achieved great things in 2018, but it was also the year that [...]

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while

    Propaganda Films to Dominate Chinese Theaters in Anniversary Year

    A presentation at the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday shed light on the welter of propaganda films that will compete with Hollywood blockbusters for the attention of Chinese cinema goers in the second half of this year. This year is laden with political significance for China’s ruling Communist Party. It is 100 years since [...]

  • Leung Chiu-wai

    Tony Leung to Star in Shanghai Film Group's 'Fox Hunt' Police Action Film

    Hong Kong’s Tony Leung Chiu-wai and mainland China’s Duan Yihong will head the cast of the Shanghai Film Group’s upcoming “Fox Hunt.” The film is based on real live events and depicts the activities of Operation Fox Hunt, a worldwide anti-corruption initiative managed by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The operation seeks to find and [...]

  • Wings Over Everest

    Terence Chang's 'Wings Over Everest' Set to Swell China's Rescue Film Genre

    “Wings over Everest,” a new action adventure film from veteran producer Terence Chang and “Wolf Warrior 2” producer Lu Jianmin, is poised to join the burgeoning Chinese sub-genre of rescue movies.   The Chinese- and English-language film stars Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu (“Project Gutenberg”; “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”), Japanese actor Koji Yakusho (“Babel”; “Memoirs of a [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    China Film Marketing Firms Must Adapt To Internet Age, Says Huayi's Jerry Ye

    Huayi Brothers Pictures CEO and media group VP Jerry Ye made no mention Sunday of the abrupt cancellation of the premiere for his firm’s highly anticipated war epic “The Eight Hundred,” which was set to be the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s opening film the night before. Instead, he looked to the future at a panel [...]

  • The Meg

    Chinese Script Development Requires A Different Touch, Top Producers Say

    Leading film producers highlighted the challenges of developing good scripts in China and abroad at a panel during the Shanghai International Film Festival on Sunday. Wanda Media GM Jiang Wei (aka Wayne Jiang) recommended that producers remain aware of the real differences between the scriptwriting process for Chinese productions versus international and co-productions. The fundamental [...]

  • Lou Ye's "Spring Fever"

    Shanghai: Previously-Banned Producer Nai An Now Hails Chinese Film Funding

    At a panel on indie film production at the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival, Chinese and foreign producers discussed the shifting funding landscape for their projects over the years. Nai An, the longtime collaborator of controversial sixth generation Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye, kicked off the talk with a look back at her producing career, which has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content