Editor’s Note: We originally published this review back in September after attending a screening of the film at Fantastic Fest. We’re republishing it today because the movie is opening in theaters this weekend.
Set in a gorgeously shot, fully realized 1971 Argentina, The Angel, directed by Luis Ortega is sort of like if Call Me By Your Name was about an amoral sociopath who bonds with his lover over crime instead of art. Breakout star Lorenzo Farro plays the androgynous, lion-maned Carlitos, the Angel of the title, and while The Angel is subtly a comment on the moral rot and civic decay that characterize life under a dictatorship (if “might makes right” and “do what thou wilt” are the guiding principles of your government institutions, why wouldn’t private citizens live the same way?), it’s mostly a mesmerizing character study of Carlos himself.
The Angel, which is apparently based on a true story, depicts Carlos as a seductive free spirit, who lives each moment for its inherent thrill, unencumbered by any care for rules or laws or gender or sexuality or empathy for human suffering. “I was a born thief,” Carlos tells us in the opening voice over. “I never believed in the concept of ‘yours’ and ‘mine.’”
Carlos meets his love interest, Ramón (Chino Darín), in a reform school welding class, when Carlos runs his torch across the back of Ramòn’s neck and then gets beaten up by him, seemingly all for the erotic thrill of it. Talk about a meet-cute!
It’s natural to be fascinated by sociopaths, who seem to live free of the guilt, fear, and introspection that give the rest of us wrinkles. Carlos is especially fascinating because, unlike, say, his contemporary Andrew Cunanan (played brilliantly on television by Darren Criss in the excellent and equally mesmerizing Assassination of Gianni Versace miniseries), Carlos cares not for status. He’s not looking for attention or deference or approval, he simply enjoys every moment without regard for the past or for future consequences, like some murderous flower child. Whereas most sociopaths are pathological liars and phonies, Carlos achieves a kind of unsparing nirvana of ultimate authenticity. And the fact that he’s so thoroughly disregarding rules while living in an authoritarian society makes it vaguely cathartic even when it’s objectively cruel.
The Angel is funny as hell, outrageous without feeling sensational, visually beautiful, and immensely enjoyable as unpredictable eye candy. It’s one of those movies that’s so fun that it ends up feeling much shorter than it actually is.
The Angel is set for limited release November 8th, and was selected as the Argentine entry for best foreign language Oscar.