Angel (1937)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Angel is a film which almost defies genre classification, working on different levels as a comedy, drama, romance, melodrama, and character study -- and therein lies its biggest problem. Director Ernst Lubitsch does not meld the disparate styles into a cohesive unit, resulting in individual scenes that work very well, but a film that, as a whole, does not feel complete. Lubitsch also has directed the actors to perform in a fairly muted style, which diminishes much of the humor in the film and makes it feel somewhat too heavy. Visually, however, Angel has some fine touches, particularly the opening sequence in which a complicated tracking shot flows across the fa├žade of the Grand Duchess Anna's home, voyeuristically looking in on a series of encounters that pique the viewer's curiosity -- and give just enough information to keep the viewer interested. The ideas brought up in the film, such as the meanings of identity and love, are presented intriguingly. As Maria, Marlene Dietrich is quietly mesmerizing, and while she is not allowed to let go as much as one might wish, she turns in a performance of assurance and subtlety. She would follow Angel with a legendary performance in Destry Rides Again.