Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Review: Angel, dir Francois Ozon with Romola Garai (2007)

Garai is perfect for this role. We last saw her in a supporting role as the Romantic girl who marries William Wilberforce, a role asking for passion and a felt expression. Fast-forward seventy years and we get a teenage Angel Deverell amid the red-brick ordinariness of a lower-middle-class suburb of a northern manufacturing town. Dickens country.

Angel wants to write and she does, but it is not just the ideal personification of Romanticism that we can enjoy here. The exquisite costuming captures each age perfectly. We start in the 1880s with 'Victorian' starch and move inexorably onwards -- like Angel's publishing success -- to the years just prior to the Great War.

Each set of costumes is a perfect fit, a stunning achievement, truly. With the war come less confining dresses and, after it is over, we see flapper dresses with straight lines instead of curves. Angel, however, is a bohemian.

Here, we see how the Romantic ideal fed into a gritty realism (Angel's love is Esme Howe-Nevinson, a Modernist painter) that would squirt forward in the thirties and forties with full-blown rebellion against received modalities. This is, therefore, a movie that contains essential lessons for any person wanting to understand the emergence of The New.

As such, we can surmise that Modernism is an extension, in a real sense, of Romanticism in a way that Romanticism was not an extension of the mannered figuration of the mid-18th century. Reynolds is not the father of Turner, but rather Poussin is. The centre of art-practice thus swung across the channel, from France to England, and back to France.

This is overly simple, but then again so is the movie. It is something of a woman's version of Citizen Kane and, I think, equally to be admired.

Five stars!

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