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City of Angels

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 10/29/02 10:04:00

"Props for not botching it up but did we really need to drag out the ending?"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

After he won over audiences worldwide with the slow-moving character study Paris Texas, Wim Wenders followed up with another well-received character study in the 1988 film, Wings Of Desire. In it, an angel named Damiel decided that he was sick of wandering the planet hearing the thoughts of others and pulling them out of their problems. Falling in love with a circus acrobat, he decides that maybe he should feel what it is like to be human, and thus makes it happen.

To remake such a poignant and beautiful film in Hollywood seems almost a case of heresy to true film fans. Anyone who saw what Hollywood did to the once highest grossing French film of all time, Les Visiteurs, would have nearly lost their lunch at the remake, the awful Just Visiting, so it stands to reason that a remake of Wings of Desire could only be a tragedy.

Thankfully, director Brad Silberling is a dab hand with all things romantic, and he puts together perhaps one of the finer Hollywood adaptations of foreign fare of our time. Sure, City of Angels is no Wings of Desire, but as a commercial romance that rises above the majority of such things, it is undoubtedly a fine achievement. Every scene in this film is slow and intriguing, heartfelt and artistic. Nicolas Cage, who usually comes across these days as the acting equivalent of cardboard, wood or stone, is given a fantastic character to work with and gives up perhaps his finest work to date in return as Seth, an angel in love. Meg Ryan likewise brings out what talent she has and leaves nothing behind as the object of his desire, a surgeon having a life crisis.

In the world portrayed in City of Angels, weíre all surrounded by dark-clad individuals who watch over our shoulder, guiding us when we need guidance and taking us away when itís our time. Theyíre everywhere Ė buildings, billboards, the beach, the bathroom Ė and they hear our thoughts. Problem is, at least for Cageís character Seth, they canít feel what we feel. No love, no pain, no hunger, no satisfaction, no color, no taste. When Ryanís character experiences a huge loss in her life, Seth begins to feel more than his dutiful concern for her and slowly he begins to appear to her more and more often in human form.

As a reviewer who seldom has a good word to say about either Cage or Ryan, Iíve got to admit that this is a good outing for both. Itís not nearly as amazing as the original upon which it was based, but Silberling has taken the source material as far as is commercially possible with a financial return in mind.

Hollywood doesnít normally churn out product as classy and intelligent as this, and though the film probably goes about fifteen minutes longer than it should have (in my opinion it should have ended when Ryanís candle blew out), thereís no denying itís well worth a rental.

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