City Of Angels

City Of Angels (1998)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Meg Ryan
Extras: 2 Documentaries, 2 Commentary Tracks, Isolated Music Score, Interviews, Deleted Scenes, Music Videos, Trailers and Production Notes

It’s hard enough to find truly stylish romantic movies these days, and it is even harder to find and experience romance in our busy real lives. "City of Angels" will resurrect that "true romantic" feeling deep inside you. The film does not only talk about love as a paraphrase, but goes much deeper, trying to explore the origins of these emotions and how they can affect our very lives. It makes you wonder and question yourself, how you feel about love and faith. How far will you go and sacrifice for love, for your inner believes. It will surely open your eyes to how precious and volatile everything around you is.

Seth (Nicolas Cage) is an angel in modern day Los Angeles, whose duty it is to safely guide dying people from their earthly lives to the other side of existence. It is a depressing "calling", although Seth is emotionless and hence cannot feel the somberness of his duties. When he and his fellow angels are not tied to their duties, surrounding themselves with the sick and dying, they gather inside a public library, or at the beach to enjoy the "heavenly music" and California’s colorful sunrises and sunsets. One day something odd happens. Seth is waiting for a man who is destined to die during an open-heart operation by Dr. Maggie Rice (Meg Ryan).

Maggie is a lovely, caring, modern and intelligent surgeon and doesn’t believe in angels or supernatural existences per se, and yet, at one point, Seth believes she looked right at him. It was only a coincidence, however, as Seth is invisible to human beings. When Maggie felt she was losing her patient, desperately trying to save him, she simply stared blankly into the room, and straight at Seth who happened to be there.

Seeing Maggie suffer with the pain of losing a patient for the first time, and her loss in confidence as a result, Seth decides to use his powers and make himself visible to her, appearing as a human. He tries to help her and immediately the two are strongly attracted to each other, although Seth still has no real emotions. He is getting anxious, intrigued and more curious, wondering what it is like to be a human being with emotions and true affections. He wants to taste, feel, and be touched by the woman of his dreams. Will his love and will be strong enough to let him make the hardest decision of his existence, to exchange his immortality for, what angels consider, a weak and aging human body?

After all, isn’t immortality what most humans want sometimes? As an angel like Seth however, it is more attractive to be human and mortal and the film nicely presents these different points of view. The film makes you feel completely down to earth, peaceful, romantic, and it shows you just how wonderful, yet imperfect, life truly is. Nicholas Cage plays off the soft side in him as Seth, the charismatic angel. He nicely portrays the great innocent, almost child-like, joy, when he starts to use his senses. The taste of a pear, the touch, and scent of rain, all are things he experiences for the very first time. And of course, there is the greatest joy he was looking for, the touch of his love. Meg Ryan, once again, with her sweetest face and her trademark smile, immediately wins the viewers’ hearts. On the other hand she also presents us with a strong side as a responsible, energetic specialist surgeon, never losing touch of that tender woman she is when she is alone, crying and losing faith in herself.

Another highlight of the film is the great and sympathetic performance by Dennis Franz as Messinger, who can also be seen regularly in the TV series NYPD Blue. He is Seth’s living and breathing example of what an angel can achieve if he really wants it. Messinger has shed his immortal life and turned into a man a long time ago and he is the one who ultimately opens Seth’s eyes to the possibility of becoming human. He helps Seth to see how exciting and joyful a human life can be, but still he cannot make the decision for Seth. He has to fight his own demons and make up his mind.

"City Of Angels" is a Special Edition release from Warner Home Video that contains an overwhelming lot of extra materials. The film itself is presented in a matted <$PS,widescreen> version that is <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> and rich in detail. The transfer is flawless without any signs of compression or <$pixelation,pixelation>. The film’s color reproduction is meticulous with absolutely stunning colors that always remain faithful and absolutely neutral, even in hard environments. The black level on this disc is practically perfect, giving the image a rock solid look with deep and detailed shadows and vibrant highlights.

Gabriel Yared is the composer responsible for the film’s atmospheric music score. It is a great score that does not use instantly recognizable leitmotifs but instead relies on rich textures and intricate harmony voicings to weave a charming layer of music that nicely blends with the images and more importantly the delicately emotional develop- ments in the story. The disc contains a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack, as well as a French <$DS,Dolby Surround> track. English and French subtitles are also available on this disc, but sadly, for some reason, Spanish subtitles have been omitted altogether.

Let’s take a look at the disc’s rich supplemental content. The disc contains two separate, very informative running length commentaries that bring out more aspects of the filmmaker’s dramatic intentions. The first <$commentary,commentary track> is with director Brad Silberling while the second one features producer Charles Roven and writer Dana Stevens. A third audio track contains the film’s isolated music score with a commentary by composer Gabriel Yared. Apart from the obligatory production notes, and cast & crew bios, this DVD also contains 2 documentaries. One of them is a "Making Of" featurette that allows you to look behind the scenes of the film, while the other one is a documentary that concentrates on the visual effects of the movie. The visual elements of this movie are easily overlooked in this particular film, as they are very subtle at times. They are poignant, completely unobtrusive and yet, they define the visual style and the tone of the film altogether. The documentary helps understand how these visual designs and effects have been used to create the film’s strong atmosphere. The disc also contains deleted scenes with commentaries and explanations and a production design commentary with Lilly Kilvert. Also on the disc are music videos by The Goo Goo Dools and U2, interviews with Alanis Morissette and Peter Gabriel, as well as 5 different theatrical trailers for the film. Quite a bundle of extras, all of which are well produced and greatly enhance the disc’s appeal, especially considering that Warner is pricing Special Editions the same as regular releases.

It is interesting that "City Of Angels" is not simply yet another "angel movie", portraying them as omni-powerful beings with a calling to better humanity. There are no wings, halos or white dresses, as we all seem to envision angels, in this movie and yet it creates a much stronger and greater vision of angels, than I have ever seen in a film before. The "uniforms" of the angels in this movie are all black, from head to toes. The "earthly clothing" creates a more intimate association with the angels and lets you somehow feel more related, closer, to them. It is what could be considered a "modern" take on angels without miracles and magic tricks. It makes the film enjoyably different, apart from other things, and absolutely worth seeing. If you’re in the mood for some romantic entertainment that is not deceptive or cheesy, Warner’s "City Of Angels" is a great choice you should give a good, close look.