City Of Angels

City Of Angels


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Save us from the Hollywood remake. Where there was irony, now there is schmaltz. Where there was grainy realism, now there is technicolour squeezemescope. If he wasn't so very much alive, Wim Wenders would be spinning in his grave. As it is, he's happy to take dollars and turn the other cheek.

His 1987 black-and-white masterpiece, Wings Of Desire, was so unexpected and original it took critics and audiences by suprise. It tells of an angel in Berlin who falls in love with a trapeze artiste. Not your average Sleepless In Seattle, that's for sure.

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In the hands of Brad (Casper) Silberling, this freshly laundered version makes you feel positive about death. It makes you feel better about heart surgery and sunsets and riding a bike with your eyes shut. It makes you feel alright about touching and smelling and weeping and bleeding. Nicolas Cage, as the angel, has a neat haircut and a cool stare that says: "I may look like a body snatcher, but I'm really a nice guy." Meg Ryan, as the surgeon (a circus performer is too low class for Glossville, Cal), still walks like a kid and has a look in her eye that says: "I may be embarrassing as a grown up with a proper job, but I'm still the tomboy next door."

The angel is one of many who hang around LA, watching the traffic go by, accompaning the deceased from their place of death, putting their hands on the vunerable and scared, listening to thoughts, quietly menacing in their long leather coats, invisible to the living. The surgeon plays Jimi Hendrix in the operating theatre to show that she's retro cool and has a doctor boyfriend who likes nothing better than taking two days off in a national park to break hiking records for fun.

You know from the start, she's bored of him, and when he asks, "Will you marry me?", you wince. The angel, being invisible, is a problem. Where's the romance? They break the rules and suddenly she can see him. Cue singer songwriter (female).  He behaves like a stalker, always there, always watching, and she, for some inexplicable reason, hook-line-and-sinks into him, maybe because he doesn't question the unsuitability of her footwear. He does that thing with her hair, touching it, which in his case is tricky, being ethereal. At least Ghost didn't cheat this much.

The script (it has to be written by a woman) is full of lines such as "What good would wings be if you can't feel the wind on your face?" The concept has the "Seattle" seal of approval, so feelgood you feel bad. How can people live in such clean houses? The surgeon's cabin in the hills, for example, has photo shoot chic, as if the decorators left an hour ago.

Cage is unnaturally self-controlled until the angel falls to earth when he reverts to his trademark edge-of-mania. Ryan has as much difficulty being convincing in ER garb as she did flying helicopters in Courage Under Fire. There is a quality of decency about her that has nothing to do with the after life, or any life. She has become the ikonesse of America's lost innocence and in a movie like this that encourages notions of love conquering all, she's in custard heaven.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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American reimagining of Wings Of Desire turns the schmaltz up to stun level.
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Director: Brad Silberling

Writer: Dana Stevens

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan, Andre Braugher, Dennis Franz, Colm Feore, Robin Bartlett, Joanna Merlin, Sarah Dampf, Rhonda Dotson, Nigel Gibbs, John Putch

Year: 1998

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Germany, US


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