2003 comedic poem

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The titular town's about to be flooded. Six guys in suits and hats have to get the stragglers to evacuate in exchange for lakeside property. Meanwhile, an orphan who thinks he's an angel interacts with a quartet of eccentric angels. And there's a big wooden dog in there somewhere.

A family of angels, an orphan who thinks he's an angel, a stilt-legged wooden dog thing, an ark built by a guy with two wives, one angel with weird steam-punk glasses and wooden (or sometimes porcelain) hands, another angel named Cup of Tea, wings in a briefcase, a guy nailing his feet to his porch. This is a movie with oddball ideas, and there are times when they feel a little forced. At times, it feels a little cold, difficult to connect with, and I wish it all came together a little more coherently. It suffers a bit from being a period piece as I always have a little trouble connecting with those. The setting, one of dusty magical realism, is all grays and browns and doesn't feel like a real place at all.

What keeps it afloat is how visually spectacular it is. The Polish brothers, the guys who gave us Twin Falls, Idaho, fill this with gorgeous visual poetry. It's really about as beautiful as a movie can get. The shapes of men's hats, floating coffins, that impressive ark, black car choreography, a child swinging against a backdrop of mountains, a three-walled church, animal trophies, antiquities.

Even though this feels a little stiff at times, there's also a sneaky humor that I like. At times, it feels like a somnambulistic Coen brother movie. Cup of Tea gets the best lines, calling characters "saucy, sheep-biting flat-mouthed dewberry" or "daintish beetle-headed foot-licker." One character throws out a "What are you talking about, Willis?" that made me laugh out loud. And then there's Ursula, the woman at the diner, and her weird guessing game she makes customers play when ordering.

This is a quiet movie where nothing much seems to happen, but by the end, you feel that the Polish brothers have thrown a lot of threads out there. Most things are left open-ended, and this is definitely the kind of movie that would be fun to dissect with others if it was something that other people would care to see.  Personally, I think it deals with the afterlife, but I don't really know very much.

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