Thursday, August 15, 2013

"Angel": Francois Ozon takes a more linear look at the world of authorship

Angel” (or “The Real Life of Angel Deverell”, based on the novel of that name by Elizabeth Taylor) is “another” English film (2007) by French director Francois Ozon about an author.

The film is less “mysterious” than some of the director’s other work, but instead it comes across as like an early 50s period epic, enhanced by garish Technicolor.

Romola Garai plays Angel, the romance author who insisted on having life her own way, said what she wanted, still pleased her readers, and got rich.  Maybe her story reminds us a bit of J.K. Rowling, but not exactly.

We know she is opinionated  when in grade school she reads her homework assignment to class, and instead of a description of her real life (above a grocery store), it’s a romantic version of the life she wants.

Later, she wins a skirmish with a publisher, in not allowing any changes to her first novel (“Lady Irania”).  Since I am a woman, I understand what childbirth is really like, she tells the male editor.  Her readers would agree.  So while her editor first thought of her as conceited, she was more in touch with people than she seemed.

She meets a painter Esme (Michael Fassbinder), and is pressured to hire her sister (Lucy Russell). As she becomes richer she retreats into her own world, while her husband goes off to fight in World War I.  Rather like Scarlet O’Hara, she has trouble accepting the brutal impositions of the outside world. 

Esme is able to question the limits of her “humanity”.  Using the pronoun “you” in an impersonal sense (like “vous” instead of “tu”) he points out that he needs a wife to give of herself, not just through the veneer of her work, and fantasy. 

Esme has become broke, and the couple lives off her, and she has to change her style to please her writers more.  But then both lives spiral downward.

The issue of a best-selling novelist staying on top is very real.  The traditional publishing world is not very nice to mid-list authors (although that can change in the Internet world of self-publishing).  Donald Maass had talked about this problem in his 2001 book “Writing the Breakout Novel”, as had Scott Meredith earlier in “Writing to Sell”.

Ozon’s mystery “Swimming Pool” (2001), with Charlotte Rampling, had set up a complicated plot indeed when a mystery novelist gets offered a stay in a country house in France and gets implicated in a real mystery.  I had seen that film at the Uptown in Minneapolis. 

The film was distributed by IFC in the US and Lionsgate in Britain.

The music score by Philippe Rombi has a piano concerto slow movement theme that sounds a bit like the sweet second movement of the Shostakiovich Piano Concerto #2.

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