Angelo, My Love

Robert Duvall (1983)

 

 

No film presents a social "waltz of porcupines" quite so effectively as this one. The scene depicting a Rom court of justice, a"kris," presents viewers with a muddle of conflictual togetherness. There is nothing neat or systematic about it, only a persistent conflict that seems to serve, paradoxically, as a social glue.

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Angelo and his family come to mind when I read K. A. Appiah's thought experiment on "Dyspeptics" :

Imagine, then, a cultural group, the Dyspeptics, that thrives on rejection. Perhaps it had its origins in some sixteenth-century heresy, and ever since the heretics were expelled from the community they once belonged to, they have sought to remain aloof and isolated. Accordingly, the Dyspeptics behave in ways odious to others, ensuring that they will be constantly rejected, gaining strength from the hostility of outsiders, and so keeping their way of life uncorrupted by external influence. Now, however, they find themselves within a regime that welcomes them and lavishes governmental largesse upon them; and as a result the younger members of the group are beginning to question the basic tenets of the Dyspeptic creed. Of course, you might think this was a good thing. You might even take it as a vindication of your hug-a-Dyspeptic-today initiative. But such a policy cannot have as its rationale the protection of Dyspeptic culture. You haven't protected it; you've eroded it. The way to preserve its character would have been to encourage your non-Dyspeptic citizens to treat them with contempt. For it was under such , conditions that the Dyspeptic culture arose, and under such conditions that it will best perpetuate itself.

What policy should a State adopt toward "Dyspeptics"?

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Of Angelo, My Love, Miriam Kaprow has written: "For a superb ethnographic presentation of disreputable behavior among New York Rom Gypsies, such as refusing to attend school, conning clients who come to have their fortunes read, shoplifting new clothing although the family makes a good living, and stealing chickens for sheer enjoyment, see Robert Duvall's current popular film Angelo, My Love. Although this film is about Rom Gypsies in New York, it could easily be about gitano Gypsies in Saragossa with one or two cultural iatems altered. Some reviewers have complained that it is morally offensive to make a film that seems almost to glorify such disreputable behavior; other reviewers shave expressed concern that the film might harm the Gypsies, since it shows them unrepentingly engaged in 'dispetuable' activities. One can only note that Gypsies in New York who see the film are not embarrassed by it but, and return to see it frequently."

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Duvall met Angelo Evans, a "street wise Gypsy boy", in 1977. "I never met anyone like him before, all that precociousness," says Duvall. "It was strange to see an entity like that; he was so magnetic and different, just his presence, and the way he conducted himself. I couldn't get over it."

Duvall and Angelo became inseparable. ONe night they double-dated. For Duvall, it was kind of a joke, but Angelo, the elfin gentleman, played it seriously. He held the door for his 23-year-old date, ordered for her, brushed back her hair.

Duvall enjoys reminiscing about the film, recounting stories with the deep enthusiasm of a person leafing through an old family album. But he is relieved he no longer has to rely on the Gypsies' punctuality or goodwill. For all the amusement, it was often wearying not to know whether his good intentions were being traded on, whether he was a companion or just a mark, whether Angelo's tears were real or manufactured. Finally, though, if the Gypsies hustled Duvall, he succeeded in hustling a movie out of them.

--Steve Fishman, New York, March 7, 1983.