Angel of Fire

Filmmaker Dana Rotberg's second feature (1992, 95 min.) is a knockout. It has that peculiarly Mexican nontranscendental fusion of the symbolic and the everyday: objects seem to glow with life and meaning but stay firmly fixed, never fading into background or sliding into subjectivity (helped in no small measure by an extraordinary vibrancy of color). Its 15-year-old heroine radiates an almost palpable innocence and an acceptance of everything and anything—including the incestuous baby of her beloved father she proudly carries as a wondrous gift to be celebrated and cherished. She's also a professional angel—sitting on a trapeze high above the tawdry circus tent over which she reigns, she spits fire like a benediction over those who watch from below. Forced to leave the circus that's been her only home, the angel hooks up with a traveling puppet show put on by an evangelist whose evil is cloaked in a strange mythology of pardon and self-sacrifice. Our heroine follows trustingly along, until an unspeakable betrayal sparks a flame that consumes everything—except the memory of a limpidity that briefly, incandescently transfigured the world. In Spanish with subtitles.

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