Angel

Angel ★★★★★

Oh wow. Oh wow wow wow.

Lubitsch achieves levels of subtext and underplayed heartbreak here that genuinely had me gasping. Not just in the aching power plays of Maria and Antony's denial of recognition before conceding to the emotion they can't contain (though that is truly incredible), but also in quietly devastating physical nuances throughout. The face of the old flower lady as Antony cries in anguish: the haunting emptiness as Frederick enters the room where Angel should be: the silent honor and tension of Maria joining Frederick as he walks out the door in the final shot. The unexpressed sadness lingering under every frame of this film was almost too much to bear in moments like these.

This film takes all the tropes of both melodramas and screwball comedies of the era, and yet it becomes something else entirely through the sheer, understated magic of Lubitsch's direction. He and his cast don't burst into emotion or have big, surprised reactions. Everything is talked about through a self-reflexive lens, and the audience fills in the gaps with their own, stifled emotion. This is about as effectively subdued a drama as I've ever seen, and I can't believe it isn't talked about more when Lubitsch is brought up.