Hereís one for you art movie buffs: a stunningly
visualized, wordless exercise in dreamlike strangeness thatís an altogether
remarkable example of impressionistic razzle-dazzle.
Filmmaker Patrick Bokanowski is one of Franceís top animators, even though
his work, consisting mostly of a handful of short films (including 1974ís
DEJEUNER DU MATIN and 1992ís LA PLAGE), is little known to the world at large.
Thatís also true, unfortunately, of 1982ís LíANGE (THE ANGEL). Five years in
the making, itís Bokanowskiís only feature length work, and his undoubted
masterpiece. Thus far the filmís only appearance on home video has been via an
overpriced VHS--letís hope that situation changes, and soon!
In some odd, irrational universe, an indistinct figure ascends a winding
staircase that becomes a literal stairway to heaven. Along the way we become
privy, in the rooms and corridors bordering the stairs, to several bizarre
figures stuck in repetitive loops: a man jousting with a doll, a servant woman
dropping a jug over and over, a bunch of anonymous bookkeepers confined to an
overflowing library, a woman trapped in an animated square, etc. Yet all this
darkness and absurdity gives way to the seeming transcendence of a blinding
light that emanates from above, and eventually engulfs everything we see.
Obviously this film isnít for everyone, lacking as it does anything
resembling a story or characters, or even a coherent setting (dark hallways,
partially glimpsed shapes and featureless rooms are constants). Even the title
character, a winged giant supposed to appear at the end (but cut from the
scenario for budgetary reasons), is nowhere to found.
Yet Patrick Bokanowskiís awe-inspiring technical
virtuosity is undeniable. The images are often indistinct, yes, but have a
glittering surreal beauty. Michele Bokanowski contributes a suitably
avant-garde string score that works in perfect conjunction with the images in
the way it begins with great subtlety and gradually builds to a noisy, twanging
In some ways the film is like a Philip Glass composition come to life in
its hypnotic (for viewers willing to surrender themselves to it) use of
repetition. The figures of the film perform the same actions over and over,
moving in jerky stop motion spurts--at least, those that arenít frozen in an
endless series of freeze frames (often contained within a single shot) that
flash and strobe.
A cursory reading of the events of LíANGE might suggest a metaphor of our
present world, trapped in an endless loop of triviality, or perhaps the
ascension of a human soul through the afterworld. Both interpretations are too
pat. The film, ultimately, is a gorgeously mounted, deeply haunting puzzlement
that will affect each viewer differently.
LíANGE (THE ANGEL)
Kira B.M. Films
Cinematographer/Editor: Patrick Bokanowski
Cast: Maurice Baquet,
Jean-Marie Bon, Martine Couture, Jacques Faure, Mario Gonzales, Rene Patrignani,
Rita Renoir, Alain Solomon, Dominique Serrand, Nicolas Serreau