In the middle of nowhere, a young woman is shot to death by a couple of men for unknown reasons. Another man finds her dead body and brings it back to his cabin, where he resurrects her from her state of being and starts a romance with her. It turns out that the man who saved her, Gabriel, is an angel.
Now here's a movie that really speaks to my pretentious artsy personality in more ways than one. I didn't know anything about this movie before going into it, and I think what originally made me intereted was something simple like someone commenting on it saying it's dark and surreal. Little did I know that it was a real gem. And of course it has be from French Canada, the arthouse capital of the universe.. Seriously, the amount of excellent films I've found from either Québec or Montréal is shocking. And they're all arthouse films. I need to say that the version I watched of "L'ange et la femme" was cut. I think all that differs is a few explicit shots in the sex scene, and they are shot in darkness so it's hard to make out what happens. I have seen a clip that features some of these cut shots, but I don't know if it's all of them.
"L'ange et la femme" was surprisingly simple to get into, and it started with the lead woman (later named Fabienne) getting shot to death, and Gabriel (the angel) taking her to his cabin. By blowing smoke on her in a strangely sexual scene he resurrects her, and she wakes up with no memory of who she is and how she did. Even though it's sudden, you accept the supernatural aspect of the movie straight away, no questions asked. There's not a moment where it gets silly and I think that's because Gabriel was in many ways like a regular man. The rest of the movie they build a relationship with each other, and Gabriel tries to make her now empty mind focused on the beauties of the world. He teaches her to play the piano and tries to keep her away from things in the outside world that is bad for her. But eventually her memory starts to come back to her and she knows who killed her. She wants revenge, but Gabriel knows that it's better for her to stay.
It's an extremely sexual movie and two scenes especially. The first one is the resurrection scene which I think was simply amazing. It sounds stupid in text that he blows smoke on her and she starts to live, but I think that if this movie had one perfect scene than that's the one. It came out of nowhere and instantly changed the movie into something unique, especially considering the year it was made. It's shot beautifully and it all becomes rather erotic. What is even more erotic is the sex scene later one (and I watched the cut version!). This one is extremely sensual and even though this cut didn't show any penetration or anything, it definitely put it in your head just the same. The angles, slow camera movements, close-ups, everything made this scene very erotic and it didn't need the scenes that were cut out to work. What I have seen from the cut scenes were very brief and poorly lit (the movie often is already, so it's fine), and except for making the scene more erotic, it doesn't change the movie in any way.
It's a very poetic movie and deals with a lot of different subjects, ranging from politics, religion (of sorts), death and resurrection, love, second chances and the most important part - beauty. It seemed right that the angel wanted her to become this perfect beauty and keep her away from everything else, but still he almost became a antagonist to her at other times. The way he kept her away from civilisation and constantly told her that she can do things better. That's she's not perfect yet. But of course it ends with her getting her memory back and returning to the people that harmed her.
The music plays a large part in the movie, not only because he teaches her to play but we're more often than not hearing some music in the background. It often feels misplaced for the scenes but gave them a different tone that I enjoyed. It seemed like music was used to the beauty of art. Another aspect of music that plays a big part is that before dying she was dancer.
"L'ange et la femme" might not be a completely unknown treasure but I can't remember ever hearing about it and that's shocking to me. This is a movie that everyone who enjoys arthouse movies should watch. It could easily have been just a failed erotic wannabe art film but it was handled by a director who knew what was needed to make it work. It's really inspirational when a movie works with big themes in such simplistic ways, and I know for sure that I will be keeping a piece or two of this film in me when I work on my own films. It's a great art film with great talent behind it. That goes for both the director and the two lead actors. I highly recommend this film, but make no mistake, it is pretentious art. Let's just hope that it will get a DVD release. I wouldn't mind a company like Criterion picking it up (and I could really see that happening).