Cover of "The Dreamlife of Angels"

Cover of The Dreamlife of Angels

The main characters in Erick Zonca‘s The Dreamlife of Angels (1998) are cheerful Isa (Elodie Bouchez) and frowning, self-absorbed Marie (Natacha Reguier), who form a brief friendship.

Far more important to Marie than this friendship is her agonizing romance with well-to-do Chris (Gregoire Colin), a two-timing nightclub owner.  In Marie and Chris, Zonca has characters an audience might feel superior to, but not in Isa, who, although not perfect, is friendly and generous.  Marie and Chris, on the other hand, are callous.  To the latter the former is, as Isa remarks, “just another girl”: the romance is doomed.

I do not understand the title of this French film; is it merely highly ironic?  If so, that irony in itself is interesting.  Whatever the case, La Vie Revee des Anges is easily one of the finest movies of the Nineties, a probing, dramatically strong artwork with an original, i.e. unadapted, screenplay.  It eschews French talkiness and French pessimism (it is not merely dark).  Moreover, it seems to be saying—albeit it’s something we all know—that there is no alternative to a life of self-control and some, or much, conventionality.  Isa looks for and finds work; despite whatever odd jobs Marie has had in the past, she doesn’t really want to work (except, if she can, for Chris).  Nothing good results from this.  Also, for Marie friendship is a tenuous thing.  She has little desire to maintain it.  A stable sex life, admittedly not without love, is preferable.

I urge you to seek out Dreamlife.

(In French with English subtitles)