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The Dreamlife of Angels

4.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

You'll wonder at first what The Dreamlife of Angels has to do with the everyday lives and loves of two working-class girls who become unlikely buddies in the gray, cold city of Lille. It's worth waiting to find out. Isa's all big-eyed gamine (Élodie Bouchez), her dark hair short-cropped, a generous mouth given to smiles--she incandesces from homely to arresting radiance. Lacking roots, money, even a permanent roof, this open-hearted twentysomething embraces life as a parade of possibilities, demonstrating a rare gift for making authentic creature contact. In contrast, blonde, slender Marie (Natacha Régnier) suggests a fallen angel, her delicate features frozen into a permanent rictus of suspicious contempt. Class-conscious, this material girl hungers for upscale salvation. Mischievous peasant and would-be princess stalk good-looking guys in the mall; smoke and share confidences in bed; tease a couple of hefty club bouncers, one of whom comes to care, with surprising tenderness, for indifferent Marie. But all the energy and zest flow from Isa (auditioning for club work, her Madonna imitation is flat-out infectious, while Marie slouches through a listless "Lauren Bacall"). When Marie goes literally mad for a promiscuous club owner (Grégoire Colin)--his wealth and beauty the dream she's been living for--their lovemaking's like warfare; her prideful resistance to his power over her spirit and body is what first--and briefly--turns him on. Bouchez and Régnier rightfully shared Best Actress honors at Cannes: their characters--as well as the comatose girl Isa helps to call back to life--are endearingly earthbound angels, sustained or betrayed by their respective aspirations. First-time director Erick Zonca makes us feel palpably the small, warming pleasures of human existence, the pure, cold pain of a damaged soul exiled from her "heaven." Woven seamlessly into Dreamlife's plaincloth design is a persistent faith in miracles. --Kathleen Murphy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Élodie Bouchez, Natacha Régnier, Grégoire Colin, Patrick Mercado, Jo Prestia
  • Directors: Erick Zonca
  • Writers: Erick Zonca, Pierre Chosson, Roger Bohbot, Virginie Wagon
  • Producers: Cyrille Solovieff, François Marquis, Michel Saint-Jean
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: August 24, 1999
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0767837363
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,359 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Dreamlife of Angels" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
Two French girls who are "not the chosen ones" (to recall Cyndi Laper) befriend one another after meeting at a sweat shop where they operate sewing machines. One of them, Marie (Natacha Regnier) is apartment-sitting for a mother and her daughter who are in the hospital, victims of an accident. The other, Isabelle (Elodie Bouchez) has been living day to day with her backpack on her back, sometimes selling handmade cards on street corners. Almost immediately there is an affinity, and they find joy and adventure in one another's company.

Part of the power of Erick Zonca's forceful and precise direction is to make us not only identify with his two heroines, but to force us see the world from their point of view. They are tossed about by strong emotions, powerfully projected by both actresses. Their lives and happiness are at the whim of forces beyond their control, the most powerful of which are their own feelings.

When I was a little boy and went to the movies I would see three films, bang, bang, bang, one after the other, and when I came out, five or six hours later, I was transformed. I had grown, and I could see the world in a different way. Of course I was a little boy and every little bit of experience was amazing and added to my knowledge of the world. Now, such transformations, like moments of Zen enlightenment, are rare and precious. The Dream Life of Angels is one of those rare and precious films that has the kind of power to make us see the world afresh as though for the very first time.

Bouchez and Regnier shared the Best Actress award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for their work in this movie. Indeed it is hard to choose between them. Both are wonderful. Bouchez's character, Isabelle, has a gentle, fun-loving, child-like nature, tomboyish and sentimental.
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Format: DVD
This is a movie about people. In particular, two young French girls who meet at a seamstress job in the drab, comatose city of Lille. They're both bruised by life and have bigger dreams than working day to day in sweatshops and restaurants. They quickly become close friends, meet two burly but sweet-natured bouncers at a concert--Charlie and Fredo, and occupy a flat together that belongs to a mother and daughter who have been in a car accident and lie unconscious in the hospital. Marie (Natacha Regnier) ends up sleeping with Charlie. "I didn't expect to end up with a fat guy," she says. "A fat guy, I don't think of myself as fat. It's just a question of vocabulary."
Then she ends up in bed with a rich, bratty bar-owner that uses her for sex. I think he finds her a little daffy and it turns him on. But that's okay because the security and stable life he represents turns her on so the relationship is equally empty on both sides. Meanwhile, Isa (Elodie Bochez) spends her days at the hospital by the bedside of the dying girl--her mother, we learn, has already passed away and the flat that the girls are house-sitting is going to be sold. Tempers flare and soon the friendship has more or less atrophied, they've grown apart for all these reasons and more.
Elodie and Natacha both give raw, vulnerable performances. There is a whole lot to be written on their relationship alone. I like the movie for its truthfullness--it shows these girls as happy, sad worn-out angels, wandering the streets either weary or glowing, depending on the day.
It's a film less about plot and more about its characters. Its meaning is left open for the viewer to interpret.
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Format: DVD
Trying not to bandy about the word "groundbreaking," I have to admit this is the first word that comes to mind when describing this exciting, touching, and unnerving film that has no specific genre. Sure, it's a drama about how the transient, though tenuous bonds of two hapless girlfriends can be torn apart by a sly, self-serving cad. Sure, it is indeed a foreign film in that the characters do speak French and that we can't expect to walk away from the credits feeling cleansed as ordained by most Hollywood feel-good output. But there really is no precedent for Zonca's direction which has elements of the cinema verity or documentary style while at the same time, captures the flawless performances of Elodie Boucher and Natacha Regnier who are both so natural that it seems they have no clue they're on camera. The plot is a love triangle with a twist. Defiant and bitter squatter girl takes in affable and trusting drifter girl and they both unite based on their otherness in the streets of Lille, France. This initial premise is perhaps one that would dissuade the average male viewer used to the shoot-'em-up Clint Eastwood fare, but the plot diverges when Regnier's character, Marie, hooks up with a devilish and unsympathetic club owner played by Gregoire Colin. Marie, who is still seething from a thousand violations of her dignity, feels she can finally win respect and love from this upwardly mobile, though terribly aloof, womanizer. The rift occurs, not because Boucher's character (Isa) falls for the same man, but because she despises him and what he has done to their friendship. Isa would like nothing better than to live a simple, hand to mouth existence with her new friend, doing odd jobs, and paying visits to their apartment owner's daughter in the hospital.Read more ›
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