Bill Plympton builds a version of the Wings of Desire + The Elephant Man.
Idiots and angels is the latest feature-length film by the US independent animator, Bill Plympton. Even though the film has been screened in many festivals worldwide since 2008, only this fall has its US theatrical release.
It is the repetitive pattern of the middle-class nerdy American that first draws attention to this dark, and utterly engaging metaphysical thriller of Bill Plympton. A self-centered and rude guy wants to get the best out of his misery life by smoking incessentanly and harassing, day after day, bar patrons. He discovers, though, that wings have grown in his back (probably the result of a butterfly in his hair?), and he decides to go to a back specialist.
From then on, Idiots and Angels looks like an animated version of David Lynch's The Elephant man with no good doctor in sight. Locals ridicule Angel, and the abusive person suddenly finds himself doing good deeds he does not want to execute. It is like learning to fly (an inspiring theme in the film) without the will to do so.
The narrative unfolds with a surprise for the second part. Angel now becomes the passive observer (in a way opposite to the angel of Wender's Wings of Desire) to a series of destructions where the element of fire plays the dominant role (while water makes wings grow).
The dark palette of Idiots and Angels is revealing in its depiction of human morbidity, but this makes the white wings all the more luminant (not to mention Angel's ascension in the sky).
The ever-talkative (but not annoying) musical selections range from the soprano Nicole Renaud to Pink Martini and their lullabies. In an otherwise silent film, the sumptuous drawing style of Bill Plympton here finds its accompaniment in a substantial dark story of human redemption -almost romantic.
Idiots and Angels, 2008
Director-writer: Bill Plympton
Producers: Biljana Labovic, Bill Plympton, Steven Tenhonen
Editor: Kevin Palmer
Music: Alan Jackson
Running time: 78'