La vie rêvée des anges (1998)
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- 113 min.
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Nationally, France doesn't produce a very large output of movies in a year, but that makes it possible for a lot of these movies to generally be of high quality. I don't really have much to complain about when it comes to French movies, I mean they usually clock in at 7's or higher on 10 for me personally which is pretty solid. No there aren't usually any big movies that can take on the blockbusters of Hollywood but French human dramas can be very good too.
One thing I find kind of funny about La vie rêvée des anges is that it is apparently one of the very few movies to have properly depicted someone being in a coma in a film. That's right, it's one of only two movies between 1970 and 2004 to have gotten comas right alongside Barbet Schroeder's Reversal of Fortune, which is kind of guilty of cheating because it's based on real events. Perhaps there's been a movie before 1970 or after 2004 to have gotten comas right but all the same, Erick Zonca and his writers deserve credit for their work.
Isa (Élodie Bouchez) is unable to find a friend she made over the summer at his house and as a result has nowhere to go. She's homeless and pretty much penniless. She makes attempts at earning money with hand crafted cards that she makes on the side without too much success though. One man (Zivko Niklevski) offers her a job at a textile factory when she tries to sell him a card which is where she meets Marie (Natacha Régnier). Marie is kind enough to allow Isa to stay in the apartment she's looking after and the two become fast friends.
What La vie rêvée des anges does so well is its portrayal and development of characters. Isa and Marie are both really interesting to watch and there is some fascinating character growth by the end of the movie. Isa is a chatty woman able to latch on to just about anything or anyone when it's needed. She goes from job to job but keeps a very positive attitude about the whole thing. Marie on the other hand seems to be the one who is more successful at first but the more you learn about her the less that becomes true. Clearly she's had family trouble and I'm guessing it has something to do with her father. Having relationships with men is difficult for her and she's quick to fly off the handle in fury.
Marie's motivations are really nicely explored and there's no hint of "Hollywood relationship-itis" anywhere. Isa is able to get by being mistreated but Marie just can't anymore. She aspires to something better which she sees in Chriss (Grégoire Colin). A Hollywood rom-com this ain't, so don't expect anything rosy and cheery.
I love both of these characters and their respective actresses do a great job at playing them. Élodie Bouchez and Natacha Régnier look like real people instead of actors trying to be real people. They bring us to a part of France that someone like me from North America doesn't see very often. Inside dingy bars, small apartments and loud factories, we get to see France through a different kind of lens.
If it isn't happy/comedy movie night, La vie rêvée des anges is really worth a watch. It's portrayal of people and their relationships feels extremely real. Erick Zonca takes the viewer far away from the magic of Paris. Instead we get treated to a dreary look at rural France that gets the stamp of approval when it comes to coma portrayal in film by Dr. Eelco Wijdicks. Really though, La vie rêvée des anges is a hard hit to the gut in the best possible way.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #5 in Times' 100 Best French Films
This movie ranks #25 in César Award - Best Film
This movie ranks #235 in NY Times' The Essential 1,000 Films to See
This movie ranks #891 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #956 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die