(On DVD, February 2012) The most remarkable thing about Angel-A is how atypical it feels when compared to the rest of writer/director Luc Besson’s filmography. You’d have to dig back to the eighties (past the most recent bad action movies and older better action/SF films) to find something like it, perhaps The Big Blue. Angel-A begins by showing small-time hustler down and out in Paris, about to throw himself off a bridge. But then! A mysterious woman appears and forces our protagonist to take control of his own life. The rest of the film unfolds as a black-and-white dream set in picturesque Paris, as protagonist and guardian angel solve their problems and fall in love. Plot-wise, it’s thin. Visually, however, it’s absolutely gorgeous: The black-and-white cinematography is nearly perfect at capturing Paris at its most inspiring, and the fairytale atmosphere helps a lot in establishing Angel-A‘s own reality. In other hands, it could have been a pretentious art-house mess. In Besson’s grip, however, it turns into a relatively entertaining piece of ambitious popular cinema. Hardly perfect, no: the plot contrivances are numerous and those who think Besson can’t quite write female characters will have more material to consider here. Jamel Debbouze, far better-known as a comedian, is a bit of a revelation here as the pathetic protagonist. Unfortunately, Rie Rasmussen isn’t the best choice as Angela; her delivery (in her third language) is mealy-mouthed and her physique doesn’t add that much to the film. Still, Angel-A is a remarkable piece of work for its cinematography alone; Besson fans and detractors owe it to themselves to have a look, if only to show that he can do something else than dumb anti-establishment action-comedies.