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by Jim Wunderle

"City of Angels"

Directed by: Brad Silberling

Starring: Meg Ryan, Nicolas Cage, Dennis Franz

Rated: PG-13

Here's an old joke: The definition of a gentleman is someone who can play the accordion ... but doesn't.

The same holds true when it comes to telling people about a dream you had. Everyone has had a great, disturbing, joyous, terrifying, unbelievable dream at one time or another, a dream they feel they have to share.

OK ... so, now think about when someone has tried to convey that experience to you. You probably nodded a lot, smiled and did your best to be awe-struck. But be honest. When it comes right down to it, other people's dreams are just not that interesting to anyone else. It's a classic example of "you had to be there." (As a filmmaker, maybe David Lynch should take note of this.)

The same holds true for personal epiphanies, those moments of complete revelation when things just "hit" you and your life changes in an instant. You can't really convey that feeling to anyone else.

I preface this review with those remarks because I have to share an epiphany with the reader. There's no way around it, but I promise I will not tell you about the great dream I had last week, nor will I break out the squeezebox for a rip roaring version of "Lady of Spain."

I was in L.A., a city I have always loathed, and had arrived by plane, a mode of travel that terrifies me. I was not in the perkiest of moods.

It was 1988, and Wim Wenders' latest film, "Wings of Desire," had just been released in the U.S. Knowing it would probably be a while before the film made it to my hometown, I thought I'd go see it while in L.A.

It floored me. It changed my life and a lot of my attitudes about life. It was an epiphany. More important than that, it remains one of the best films I've ever seen.

"Wings of Desire" has been critically acclaimed for its poetic quality, its stunning cinematography there are sweeping camera angles and tracking shots that take your breath away and its sheer originality.

The story revolves around an angel. His territory is Berlin, and he's there to assist the dying, occasionally give a bit of inspiration to those in need, and generally watch out for the well-being of the mortals. He can see and hear what's going on, but he can't taste, smell, touch or really "feel" anything earthly. It's like he's watching a movie of life.

On his rounds he observes a beautiful, and despairing, young woman and falls deeply in love with her. He longs to be with her as a human and finds a way to reject his angelic status to become mortal.

Wenders' screenplay and direction are incredibly touching, and the philosophical messages filter through in a most accessible and enjoyable manner. "Wings of Desire" is a life-affirming piece of art, to say the least. I don't think I've ever been as "touched" by a film, but that's just one of those personal epiphanies.

Wenders made a sequel to his masterpiece called "Faraway, So Close," and while it was a nice effort, it just didn't attain the heights seen in the original. And now comes the Hollywood remake, wherein the story gets glossed and tweaked for Middle-America (think "Ghost") and big box-office stars take on the main roles (think Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan).

On the up side, Cage and Ryan are two of the finest actors around and do their jobs here with a great deal of dignity.

But director Silberling, who adapted Wenders' story, has tried to make the plot more "accessible" to the masses. He cops a lot of the camera moves from "Wings of Desire," and while he makes the effort to maintain an air of bittersweetness the ending isn't exactly Hollywood formula his story, compared to Wenders', is painfully lightweight.

In the tradition of "Ghost" (which I also thought was melodramatic fluff) "City of Angels" will be the "date" movie of 1998. I can only say this: If you get any kind of emotional/spiritual feeling from this film, do yourself a favor and rent Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire." It will fulfill all of the promises put forth in "City of Angels."

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)


'Wings of Desire' has been critically acclaimed for its poetic quality, its stunning cinematography and its sheer originality.[[In-content Ad]]


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