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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

poverty/patriarchy

7/10
Author: jcappy from ny-vt
4 January 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The barking and sirens behind " Angel de Fuego's" opening credits do not get muffled by the delayed musical sounds, night lights, and bright colors of the Circus of Fantasies. For the tattered tents, cracked paint, empty bleachers, broken families, sexual license that greet us express a fatalistic melancholy, and a poverty determined outside of this marginal Mexican landscape.

"Life without love is not worth living" i believe the theme song says. Love is salvation, love is life itself---all else is sacrifice, and human sacrifice is the worst horror. So the young heroine says--after disrupting the Bible play--of Abraham's sacrifice "so he loved God more than his own son."

But the world depicted here is one in which the closest thing to love is incest. Only Alma, the young fire-eater/acrobat, who refuses to whore for the failing circus--she sleeps with her ailing father instead, and becomes impregnated by him-- has the courage to resist this loveless world. By choosing her future child ("a monster" to her bosses) over her job, she sets out on her own with a passionate belief that her salvation is in the stirring physical presence inside her body.

But by taking up refuge in a traveling puppet show, which performs OT stories, she encounters an even stronger patriarchal trap than what the circus offered. Refugio, the priestess, who God speaks through, senses Alma's evil from the start and sends her mixed signals of acceptance and rejection---all for the purposes of using this sinner to her own contorted religious ends.

For her scheme to work she must view Alma as a great sinner (she's informed by God)), as a Temptress to her holy son, Sacramento, and as a Penitent. She warns that her appearance cannot cover-up her evil, that God sees and hears all, and she rejects her plea to be included in the Book of Forgiveness. While promising "the Garden of Eden," and safety in her fold, she invariably eclipses Alma's truly infectious smile with her accusatory expressions, and coldly repels her capacity for life: "What you like is not always what god likes."

Penance is the only way to "open Heaven's doors" and she alone can administer it. Just as Sacramento, the Tempted, must practice extreme vigilance over his young body (every look at Alma is followed up by some form of bodily self-torment) so will Alma, the Temptress; be forced to endure a similar tortuous course. "Kneel down, forehead on ground" she says, as she introduces her long ritual of penances, "I must Purify you." This purification which involves fasting, intense heat from fire, animal sacrifice, and public nudity is all part of her (God's) ultimate plan for her two charges.

For Alma is to Refugio what she is to the circus owner---a body to sacrifice on behalf of an abstract Father, or exploit on behalf of actual fathers. Once Refugio aborts Alma's baby, in order to appease her God so that her son Sacramento can become God's true minister, the die is cast for Alma.

Broken and homeless again, she returns to the Circus, where a fellow performer remarks of her struggle to mount to the acrobat's swing: "That angel burnt her wings already." It's a remark, which is more prophetic than accurate, however, because once again she finds her body being ripped off in the bleak circus night..

In one last effort to find some form of salvation and trust, she visits Sacramento, who she finds engaged in chastisement of the flesh. But even strapped in cactus, and despite Alma's very direct pleas-- "Since your mom purified me i feel empty." "You speak his words, that's why I need you," "you'll pray for me," and "why do you punish yourself so much"--she is the Temptress first and foremost, and he 'succumbs' to her. With this final betrayal, she says to this sinless wonder: "Killing an angel is a sin, and your God doesn't forgive those who sin."

Her imperatives lost, Alma returns , kisses Jose, her asleep ally, on his shaved skull, and proceeds douse the main tent with kerosene, in preparation for her final fire act, in which she will join St. Joan, and all the other burnt women of history.

*******************

Despite or because of the grim realism, truly evil persons are absent in this film's environment. Refugio has redeeming features---she attempts to reach out to the poor both with her art and her strong presence. She says the "wretched" are not sinners, and "suffer because they have no steady place." Alma's father, "the greatest clown in Latin America" does not appear active in the incest, which is not to say he doesn't welcome it. Only the circus operator is a bad ass---but he's rather sluggish in this.

And Malena, Alma's mother, is certainly the most redeeming of the "bad" characters. At no time is she anything but a sympathetic character, despite Alma's refusal to acknowledge her. She too is a female in a world suspended in patriarchal poverty. She does not appear to be at all responsible for her broken family and, in any case, sincerely welcomes Alma back into her life. And that she does this in a garbage dump to a daughter who is both wearing her father's memorial photo around her neck and bearing her father's child, only underscores her own innocence and the power of patriarchy to insert itself into her equally innocent daughter's life.

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8 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Slaying innocents

8/10
Author: gkearns from St. Louis, MO
29 January 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are some SPOILERS in this review. I can't say I felt particularly uplifted by the movie. I think I caught what Dana Rotberg was saying, but I took my own sense of the character of Alma (I believe that once a movie is released the story and its characters no longer belong to the director). Maybe my idea isn't so different than what was intended, but Rothberg's intentions were kind of fuzzy. Alma was a child, an innocent (I saw sleeping with her father as pure child love, as well as wanting to keep the baby), but her family, her society, and her god did everything in their separate and combined powers to crush her (Why, oh why do we slay our innocents?). There was nothing in her beautiful child soul that called for redemption. BTW: There were three other innocents in the movie - the wife of the circus owner, the strong man, and Noe - but they, like Alma, were powerless. Alma was right to question the story of Abraham and Isaac: it does lay bare the twisted evil of religious belief. I hold no pious disapproval of her revenge ploy; it was quite appropriate. Of the fire? I have no problem with that. It was the Angel of Fire's heaven in a hellish world.

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

One of the best Mexican movies I have come across.

10/10
Author: marcoptellez from United States
13 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I give this movie a high rating mainly because this is one of those movies that are hard to forget. The story and events are heartbreaking.

This movie is a sad one. It is about this young girl whose life goes from bad to worse. In spite of her situation she stays optimistic. After a series of unfortunate events she gives up hope. She looses her spark. She becomes numb and empty inside. She feels there is no hope and then ......

You can't help feeling the frustration and agony of the poor life this girl has to lead. This movie shows how cruel the world and life can be.

The title fits the story. Angel of fire. The girl in this story is an angel that lives a life of hell on earth.

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4 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Good Story, Bad Direction

6/10
Author: Leo1016 (Leo1016@Hotmail.Com) from Arizona
20 February 2004

The movie "Angel de Fuego" was a great story. I rated it a 6 on the rating chart because of lack of character development and horrible direction. The characters lacked information that needed to tell the story more clearly. Rather than having ten seconds of pure nothing, they should have had more dialoge. There were scenes where an actor/actress would walk out of frame and the film kept rolling. As a viewer, I found this VERY distracting and annoying. Maybe its just me, but, I think having less 'empty' space, they should have had added more to the script.

The story was excellent, I don't understand how it could be the "Best Picture of 1993 for the New York International Latino Film Festival." It seemed like a low budget film, so I understand the lack of equiptment that was available, but I DO believe every movie's pre-production should have surpassed the production part of the film. More planning of framing, blocking, storyboarding, editing, lighting, and sound design would have made this movie a bit better and gotten the "Best Picture" award fairly.

Overall, it was a 'a-okay' film.

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2 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

Awful film.

2/10
Author: (ichitootah)
20 May 2007

Just bad. I'll refrain from giving it a one because I suppose the filmmakers must have done what they could with a budget ranging in the hundreds.

Still, the story jumps around incoherently, the characters' motives are never logical or duly explained, and the poor direction is just a chore to watch.

I doubt many people will even have to heed this warning, but stay away. Because it seems to be IMDb policy to not let a review through until it has 10 lines of text, not that anyone cares, I'll add a little more about what I thought of the movie. I thought it was the worst kind of movie junk, the kind that leaves you feeling soiled and unfulfilled after the final scene.

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