(aka 'Angels of the Streets' or 'Filles de l'exil' or 'Angels of Sin')
The first full-length feature of Robert Bresson, made in 1943 and preceded only by his 1934 comedy, Affaires publiques. His spare, concentrated style had not yet fully developed, but the seeds are there in this study of a Dominican nun's obsessive devotion to a female ex-convict who comes to live in her convent. The spiritual themes--confession, absolution, salvation--are explored through visual and dramatic paradoxes, as Bresson draws parallels between a life in prison and a life in God, and finds his final image of freedom in a pair of handcuffs. The script, by dramatist Jean Giraudoux, is talky and relatively conventional (it even makes some concessions toward some very un-Bressonian suspense), but the heaviness of the dialogue is balanced by Jany Holt's superbly understated performance as the prisoner--a performance that looks forward to the invisible acting style of Bresson's mature work.
One of the most astonishing film debuts ever, made while France was still under Nazi occupation. Bresson chose an apparently timeless subject: the way that people affect each other's destinies. Based on the real convent of the Sisters of Béthany, a secluded order of nuns are minutely observed in their rehabilitation of women from prison. If the salvation is tangibly close to a Resistance adventure, it is the simple human confrontations that fascinate Bresson - the consuming desire of secure, bourgeois-born Anne-Marie to save the unrepentant Thérèse, wrongly imprisoned for the sake of her criminal lover. Concentrated dialogue (with a little help from Jean Giraudoux) and moulded monochrome photography by Philippe Agostini contribute to an outstanding film. Rarely have the seemingly opposite worlds of the spiritual and the erotic received such sublime, ennobling treatment.
Theatrical Release: June 23rd, 1943
DVD Review: Gallimard /Synops - Region 0 - PAL
|DVD Box Cover||
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|Distribution||Gallimard /Synops - Region 0 - PAL|
|Runtime||1:26:36 (4% PAL speedup)|
Average Bitrate: 6.95 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.
|Audio||French (Dolby Digital 1.0)|
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, German, Italian, None|
book of the complete script of Béthanie (in French)
The DVD image is restored but has some contrast flickering and shows some dirt but it very watchable. At times it shows very strong detail and overall is fairly consistent throughout with a better-than-anticipated appearance. Black levels are quite rich. The mono audio was also acceptable although contained some dropouts and slight hiss in spots (when music is played).
Supplements are all in French with no translation - A 190-page book of the complete script of Béthanie, an audio conversation with Robert Bresson, Renée Faure and Jany Holt with Roger Régent (France Culture 1969) - 6:48 and a featurette - History of the film - Les Anges du péché, with Anne Wiazmsky running 50:46.
As Marshall of the DVDBeaver ListServ observantly points out: 'It looks like Les Anges is the first in a projected series of restored films originally produced by Gaston Gallimard to be released on DVD in the “Synops” series. Looks like Renoir’s “Madame Bovary” and Claude Autant-Lara’s “Lettres d’ amour” are next.'
I feel quite privileged to have been able to see this - Bresson's debut feature entry. Magnificent. I urge fans of his cinema to take advantage and order.