THE ANGEL LEVINE
On the face of it, The Angel Levine is not that different from the old angelic intervention light fantasies of the 1940s such as Here Comes Mr Jordan (1941), An Angel on My Shoulder (1946), Angels in the Outfield (1951). What is unusual is the approach, which makes the sentiments much more hare-edged and embittered. Even more interestingly it portrays the angelic figure who you could just as easily compare to The Bishops Wife (1947) with an ambiguity that suggests equally as much he could be only a street-smart hustler, as though to say that the substance of what one believes about Levine rest purely in faith.
Jan Kadar and lead actor Zero Mostel play with an authentic sense of Jewish fatalism, which lends to a nicely downbeat realism to the exercise. Ultimately though, Jan Kadars experimental tricks flipping back and forward between black-and-white and colour, a zoom-happy lens and a genuinely weird score filled with monotonous atonal rhythms and wails weakens the narrative to the point of inconsequentiality. A scene like where Levine steals the drug, shot as a bizarre chaotic mime to an even weirder score, leaves one wondering exactly what sort of film it is that one has wandered into. In the end, one is not even sure what all the ambiguity about whether Levine is mortal or divine is ultimately meant to mean or for that matter if one could care less.
Among the cast Zero Mostels wry, fatalistic performance succeeds in being occasionally moving, and the same can be said for Ida Kaminska as his wife Fanny. Gloria Foster is exceptional as the cynical, streetwise Sally one can see the suspicious distrust in her eyes and yet the willingness at wanting to believe Levine. Harry Belafontes bland performance as Levine is the only weak card among the deck, his weakly pained sincerity failing to hit that note of certainty that would have engendered the role to us.
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