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  Idiots and Angels On The Wings Of LoveBuy this film here.
Year: 2008
Director: Bill Plympton
Stars: None
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Weirdo, Fantasy
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: One day, a day much like any other day, this angry man awoke in his bed to the sound of a small songbird singing its heart out on his window ledge; then his alarm clock started to ring, two things that were guaranteed to set him off in a bad mood. He bashed the clock and yelled away the bird, then went to carry out his ablutions, showering, shaving and eventually eating his breakfast before trudging to his car in the garage and driving off with the multitude of other vehicles to work. He was not a very nice man, which explains why when another not very nice man stole his parking spot, he proceeded to grab his tie and strangle him with it, then when it broke off he placed one end in the fuel tank and lit the other...

Closely followed by the parking space stealer zooming off in a panic and blowing up in the distance, as if this was a Loony Tunes production. But it wasn't, it was a Bill Plympton cartoon, and won him some of the highest praise he ever received for a feature, though it would seem his short works where he was by consensus judged to truly shine. That said, he was more expansive in his longer form efforts, and in this case he wasn't merely delivering surreal gag after surreal gag, he did have a character arc for his protagonist to follow where he started the film as a deeply unpleasant chap, then through mysterious machinations that never went explained, he began to improve.

This all starts when the man (who is never named) sprouts wings on his back, leaving him with an angelic appearance that he initially rejects, cutting them off with his razor until he realises that whatever he does, they will grow back. Before that we are introduced to the other people in the bar he frequents, none of whom, like him, are ever heard speaking, lending a silent movie tone to the picture, though we do hear them make various noises such as laughter or screams (particularly the latter as events move on). The bar is apparently not doing so well, as apart from our anti-hero there's just one other patron, a rotund woman who sits at her table, nursing a drink just as the winged man does at the bar.

After a selection of illustrations of his nastiness - such as riding the owner's wife around like a bucking bronco when she's trying to clean up - we get to the business of those wings, and the message seems to be that nobody is irredeemable, no matter how awful, even evil, they may appear. That's the sort of thing that cartoons can do well, but it was a shade saccharine for a Plympton cartoon; luckily he managed to get away with it as ever through his boundless imagination. The premise was similar to the classic Mervyn Peake novel Mr Pye (filmed as a very fine television series in the eighties with Derek Jacobi) but spiralled off in its own typically idiosyncratic manner, resulting in scenes that could turn abruptly from laugh out loud funny to far more serious, with a few horror-inflected images here and there, though the tone was more fantasy.

As you might expect, the newly-created if reluctant angel seeks a remedy and heads for a back expert who takes one look at the fresh appendages and dreams of fame and fortune - for himself. There's a bit about each character having their own dream which we see in thought bubbles, yet it turns out what the angry man really needs is someone to love, again rather treacly but that's without pointing out the darker developments in the plot that eventually see the barman taking the wings to use to fly over rival taverns and blow them up with grenades, all to drum up business for his own pub. This should be horrific, and you could argue it is, but the sight of the burn victims marching around en masse like Egyptian Mummies in search of their next booze is a memorably bizarre one, and Plympton gets away with it. Macabre as Idiots and Angels can get (and the distinction in the title is not plain to see by any means), there were enough moments making you chuckle to provide a rich enough entertainment for the director's fans, though maybe it wasn't the best introduction. Music by Corey A. Jackson.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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