L' Ange et la femme
(The Angel and the Woman)
Format: 16mm Black & White
Runtime: 87 min
Les Productions R.S.L.
An angel (Lewis Furey) takes the bullet-riddled body of a young woman, Fabienne (Carole Laure), to an isolated cabin in the woods and revives her by caressing her wounds. She can remember nothing of her past, but relearns how to live with the help of the angel, who tells her to call him Gabriel. After a prolonged period of lovemaking, Fabienne and Gabriel are threatened by four mysterious, black-clad figures driving snowmobiles. Fabienne regains her memory and goes after the men who shot her, only to be killed again.
L’Ange et la femme is one of Gilles Carle’s most intensely personal, lyrical and accomplished works, the summation of more than a decade’s creative imagination. It envisions a world in which the existence of one thing depends on the simultaneous existence of its exact opposite: life only exists because there is death, fantasy demands reality and objectivity depends on subjectivity. Its narrative is in the Catholic tradition of the thrice-daily prayer, the Angelus, which celebrates the Virgin Mary’s divine pregnancy upon the intervention of an angel. The ominous presence of the four skidoo-riding thugs (four horsemen) also adds to the film’s Biblical undercurrent.
Released just after several major retrospectives honouring Carle’s films, L’Ange et la femme was a commercial failure and drew wildly different critical opinions. Some critics vied with each other to heap scorn on the film as an outright sham, often claiming its central sex sequences were merely titillation and/or designed to exploit Carole Laure. Other critics, primarily European, praised it as a poetic work of art and compared it to the films of Ingmar Bergman and Jean Cocteau. According to Montreal critic William Johnson, "the film breaks with the largely documentary tradition of Quebec films, the tradition of servitude to sociological reality, and brings Quebec filmmaking closer to the imaginative world of Ingmar Bergman, where the pictures are compulsively those of the real world, but they carry a form of reality that transcends the real and invites the audience into the mysterious world of the imagination of the artist."