Written and directed by French director Philippe Diaz but filmed in Los Angeles and in English, this film juxtaposes a hippie-style, free love and social justice world view to the view of the financial/political/military power. It could have been called “Make love not war”, although the actual title is really quite lovely and clever as you will realise after about 30 minutes.
In principle, we have a chamber piece setting these two world views up against each other. In one corner we have Bill, a disgraced banker, representing the people who think that their money and/or power will let them get away with anything - but, having been ejected from the system he supported, he is now ready to change his views and indeed his life philosophy.
In the other corner, Angela, the illegal immigrant offering him shelter for a few days in her gorgeously hippie-styled penthouse flat on top of a derelict hotel, where both the toilet and the shower are completely open-plan and in plain view of everything else, and where part of the neon sign of the hotel serves as lighting for the single room. That room alone is reason enough to watch the movie.
Angela embarks on the re-education of banker Bill, trying to reconvert him into a useful member of society – although it will have to be the society of a different country, as the US authorities want him locked up. With her priorities firmly on her sensual desires, she goes in for the sex first, fitting in the political education later.
To me, as someone who has essentially grown up with the Nicaragua solidarity movement, her political lecturing was a tad over-familiar, although I appreciate that the vast majority of the US audience will not know (or in fact believe, if told) that the CIA sold arms to Iran to finance the removal of a democratically elected government in Nicaragua (it’s called the Iran-Contra affair, look it up). This scandal, which was exposed in November 1986, is kind of hard to reconcile with the prevailing US ideology that “we’re the good guys”, but I can confirm that it is true, I was alive (and young and angry) when it happened. Bill’s response “you read too many novels” was hilarious to me, but probably representative of what a vast number of people would say if confronted with these historical events.
People who don’t like the gospel she preaches may resent the dialogue, but, as washed-up banker Bill proves, Angela’s charm is irresistible, whether or not you share her political opinion. And her roof-top paradise from where she looks down on the social divisions on LA with eagle eyes, is equally seductive.
I’m not exactly sure that the film will convert many Bills to Angela’s views, not least because it is effectively being boycotted and hasn’t been released in the UK at all, neither in cinemas nor on DVD. In the US, it remained unrated and got a review in the New York Times in 2011, when a Manhattan cinema showed it as part of a series of unrated films. Still it remains important to uphold the opposition to the sexual, military and financial oppression of our age, and linking these three may help to broaden the horizons of people who were only aware of one or two.
After the explanations above, it is almost needless to say that the film did not get a release in the UK (and thus joins my fast-growing list of films not shown here). However, it is available on DVD in the US and also in Germany. I’m showing the US edition here, as the German one shows a photo at the top of the cover that isn’t from the film, and I have a nagging suspicion that somebody may have had racist reasons to put Bill’s ex-wife there in her bra (who only appears for 2 minutes in the film, sitting in a café, fully dressed) rather than Angela.