The Angel Levine (1970)

Article 1971 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-7-2006
Posting Date: 1-4-2007
Directed by Jan Kadar
Featuring Zero Mostel, Harry Belafonte, Ida Kaminska

A Jew on the verge of losing his faith after suffering several setbacks is visited by a black man who claims to be his guardian angel. Unfortunately, the angel can’t do anything to help him unless the Jew believes in him, and this won’t come easy…

I enjoy looking at the distribution of user ratings on IMDB because they can actually tell you a lot about the movie. Of those that have rated this movie, roughly half give it the very top rating. The rest of the voters follow the classic bell curve, one which peaks at the five-out-of-ten level. This seems to indicate that you’ll either love the movie, or have very little use for it.

I can certainly understand the different reactions. The movie is unique and powerful, but it’s also somewhat muddled, and it has a way of confounding a viewer’s preconceptions (about angels and how movies like this should end in particular) in ways that aren’t much fun. It is an interesting meditation on the nature of faith, and the way that one person’s state of mind can change the fates of those around him. Great performances abound, particularly from Mostel and Kaminski, and it’s always interesting to watch a movie where you really don’t know just how things will pan out. But it’s definitely capable of alienating the viewer, especially the ending.



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