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Angel is a selfish, abusive, morally bankrupt man who hangs out as his local bar, berating the other patrons. One day, Angel mysteriously wakes up with a pair of wings on his back. The wings make him do good deeds, contrary to his nature. He desperately tries to rid himself of the good wings, but eventually finds himself fighting those who view the wings as their ticket to fame and fortune. Written by
Idiots and Angels is a film by long time animator and Oscar nominee Bill Plympton. The film is completely without dialogue, relying on characters actions and fantasies to tell the story. It opens with our anti-hero 'Angel' waking up, shaving, showering and having his breakfast. He drives through the bustling traffic and blows up a car that takes his parking space, then heads to a seedy bar. The bar is populated by the surly landlord, his beautiful, neglected wife and a rather rotund woman sitting in the corner. Angel orders a drink and puffs away on his cigarettes until a cocoon in his hair suddenly gives birth to a butterfly. In their own way each character expresses how they feel - The landlord wants to capture the butterfly and use it to generate business, the fat lady wants to have the natural beauty of the thing and be worshiped by men, the wife would like to soar above the heavens on it's back. Angel? He wants to smash it. Angel is a bad man and his routine is simple: drink, sell guns and smoke cigarettes.
One morning he wakes up to discover two small bones sticking out of his back which he manages to cut off with his razor, but the bones are persistent and have soon grown into fully functioning wings. Visiting a back doctor with ideas of his own and delusions of fame, Angel flees and finds himself literally being forced by the wings to do good and to change his ways. While his 'friends' initially humiliate him for his new abnormality, they soon grow envious and decide they want some for themselves.
Idiots and Angels is a beautiful animation with striking imagery and a unique ability to change it's tone and message in a heartbeat. What starts off as a comment on banality turns into a noir-ish thriller then transforms into a morality tale before surging head on into romance. It's also a superhero film. And a comedy. Just as the animation morphs with wildly inventive transitions so does the story and pace. Plymton has an excellent eye for imaginative and outrageous imagery and often one is uncertain if what we are seeing is really happening or just in the characters mind, for instance one scene has Angel riding the landlord's wife around the bar like a horse while Tom Wait's sings in the background. The soundtrack as well as the visuals has a lot to do, essentially making up one half of the experience and it just shines with some great choices of both classical and contemporary pieces.
Basically I think everyone should see this film. It's a serious accomplishment and I think that Plympton should win his first long deserved Oscar for it. I first became aware of his work when I tuned into late night television aged fifteen and had my mind blown by 'I Married a Strange Person!', his surreal 1997 feature. With Idiots and Angels he has kept the same humour and outrageousness and built on the style to add a heavy emotional air that made me begin to really care about the characters and their fate.
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