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THE TROUBLE WITH ANGELS

USA, 1966 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Director)

Director: Ida Lupino

The Trouble With Angels marked Lupino's return to feature-Film direction after a hiatus of 13 years. Beneath its somewhat dubious subject-a comedy about nuns-Angels, like many of Lupino's films, is a study of a young girl's sexual awakening, but this time in a purely feminine context. Few films at the time had so unproblematically and unsensationaliy depicted love between women as a natural stage in a women's life. Hayley Mills watches on, hidden behind a pillar in the chapel, sexual and religious curiosity mingled in a kind of all-absorbing awe, as Rosalind Russell collapses on the coflin of her dead friend, the slow-arcing descent of the camera somehow beyond and within the watcher's vision, at once transcendent and painfully earth-bound. Indeed much of Angels unfolds along a complex vertical seer/seen axis quite unique in Lupino's films (although extensively explored in much of her TV work), here related to the very ambiguous epiphanies of Hayley Mills' calling'.

It is not the least of the accomplishments of Lupino's last film that the all-but-moated isolation of the convent in which all of Angels takes place simultaneously reflects the innermost cloistered recesses of Hayley Mills' self-absorption, the womb-space of woman's sequestration, and the anachronistic gargoyle-gated glories of an everything-in-its-place Hollywood set.

The garish odds-and-evens the girls bring back, magpie like, from their summer vacations in the outside world cannot compete with the cool blue and rich brown homegenity of the convent, eons away from the black-and-white city streets of Lupino's' Filmmakers work. And the brightly chatting schoolgirls who will go on to their rounds of bridge parties or live, perpetual virgins, in the confines of a cloister. seem but distant relations to the destitute sleepwalkers who wandered those streets, (RS)

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