Angel-A (2005)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Angel-A</strong> (2005)

(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 BlueAngel-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.

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