Opening 9 Aug 2007
Angel (Ramola Garai) lives behind her mother’s small shop. She daydreams herself out of her working class background and converts these dreams about a more exciting world into a manuscript which she sends to a publisher. He invites her to London for an interview. Her overbearing attitude alienates the publisher’s wife, but he takes a chance on her talent. Thousands of women relate and her book is a huge success. She goes on to write one bodice-ripper after the other, becomes rich, buys the neighborhood mansion where her aunt once worked as a maid, takes on Nora (Lucy Russell) as private secretary and marries Nora’s brother Esmé (Michael Fassbinder). The world is her oyster. She becomes more outrageous, bullies her mother (who soon dies), her staff, and the high society leeches who attach themselves. No one is more surprised than Angel when the outbreak of World War I touches her privately. She refuses to acknowledge the new situation, even after her staff and her husband leave for combat, and no one wants to read her books anymore. In the end she stands proudly among the shards of her life and says to Esmé, “You’ve lost your leg, but it’s not like you’re dead. You are here with me in paradise."
We all left the cinema thinking, “Scarlett O’Hara all over again,” although Esmé is no Rhett Butler, which is too bad because Angel needs someone stronger than herself. Director François Ozon wrote the script, based on a book from 1957 by the same name. This was the final film at the 2007 Berinale, and at the post-film press conference, the first impression of Ozon was: what a good-looking man he is, so young, just barely 40 and already the director of such acclaimed films as Swimming Pool or 8 Women. He said that he becomes easily bored and therefore likes to do something different. “Different” in this case meant leaving France to film in English in Great Britain. This isn’t his strongest film, although the photography and the costumes of 1905 are excellent. (Becky Tan)