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.
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Just a masterpiece. The opening 25 minutes are perfect and set the tone for the entire film - interesting characters, humour, romance, unbelievable suspense and fantastic flying sequences. There's a feeling of death looming over everyone in Barranca, but also one of life. Extremely touching and human, if it wasn't for Rio Bravo I would say this is Hawks at his best.
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 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.
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 consider this one as a kind of film-friend. It stands multiple rewatchs better than other more "perfect" movies 'cause it feels like a visit to spend some time with it and be surprised again with its several idiosyncrasies.