Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who meets a handsome yet aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant, staring down death while delivering airmail in treacherous mountain terrain.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what's now showing
After Rio Bravo, my favorite Hawks. I was expecting a humorous and rousing melodrama and instead got a remarkably melancholy meditation on work, romances platonic and sexual, and death. Arthur and Grant still have their timing, but it's mostly gallows humor here. An unexpectedly resonant film.
I've watched this twice ovr the the course of 12 hours or so, my third and fourth revisitings of this very complex movie. The first of the two viewings was, in short, a disaster; much felt flat, Hawks' mastery of Hollywood conventions felt too much in the way.
Thankfully, the second viewing killed me. This is Hawks' film about Death, and the formal precision reflects that thematic. A great, demanding(for me) movie.
I know there are a lot of rave reviews about the perfection of this film, and it is visually magnificent in places, and dramatically taut just about everywhere. But I can't get along with the sexual politics. It's of it's time, I know, but I can't gloss over the whole 'shaking a crying woman by the shoulders because any display of emotion is mere feminine hysteria'. Unhealthy relationships romanticised.
Straight from the off Hawks creates a totally believable universe that's sustained throughout the movie. It might have all been shot in a Californian studio - for all I know - but the lush black and white photography creates a landscape / environment that's superbly realised and gorgeous to look at. So many beautiful moments in this film. And so many plot expectations overturned.
A multi-layered, genre-blending film. From its action and romance to the psychology of its characters and questions of family, friendship and loyalty - this is a film that flirts with so many things it's almost puzzling the whole thing works at all. An essential Hawks masterpiece.