Title: Angel-ADirector: Luc Besson
Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine
Plot: Andre (Debbouze) a small time ex-convict who seemingly owes money to everyone in Paris. Now faced with the deadline of midnight to payback powerful crime boss Franck (Melki). However a chance encounter with the beautiful Angel-A (Rasmussen), who might just be the solution to his problems while maybe hiding her own share of secrets.
Review: Besson’s first film in six years following the ho-hum reception which greeted “Joan of Arc” which let’s not forget gave him an opportunity to atleast burn his ex-wife on the stake. Still for his return to directing it’s clear her that he decided to base this film around the things he loves. It would seem also looking at this film that those loves would be Paris, models and powerful women, three things which are very much in play here.
Debbouze probably best known for his appearance in “Amelie” as the downtrodden grocers assistant Lucien and while he takes on a lead role here it sees him essentially playing the same role again, only this time as a con-artist whose debts currently make him on the receiving end of much unwanted attention from a number of members of the Paris underworld. Its following being dangled off the Eiffel Tower by Franck’s henchmen that Andre decides to thrown himself of a bridge into the Seine, keeping with Besson’s alternative sightseeing trip. Here though we are introduced to Angel-A who Lucien puts his own suicide plans on hold to rescue her in turn gaining a guardian angel, a name which might be more true than it sounds
Shot completely in black and white, the first time Besson has used this style since his debut film “The Last Battle” the film in many ways feels like a return to basics after the large scale productions which preceded it and in many ways by striping the film down to such basic elements it only further helps highlight Besson’s skills as a director without the flashy art direction distracting things. It is also a playful modern fable which he crafts here about guardian angels. Angel-A of course being more of a literal Angel it would seem or so she would have you believe with Besson teasing it out until the end to revel if she is a literal angel or just a metaphorical one.
The contrasting appearances (let alone world outlooks) of Angel-A and Andre make them a fascinating double act, with Andre constantly in a state of panic and despair while Angel-A is much more of the free spirit who embraces life and constantly tries to get Andre to see the world the way she does. Angel-A also has a rather unique approach to helping Andre to resolve his issues as she frequently whores herself out to raise funds to pay back his debts, which is made considerably less shocking when we learn later what she was doing during these sessions while equally showing some impressive fighting skills when confronted by one group of heavies looking to collect from Andre, making her the exactly the sort of female character that Besson likes to populate his films with. Still when not turning tricks or beating up heavies Angel-A also finds time to play therapist to Andre as together they try to get to the route of his issues, which it would seem go a lot deeper than the surface issues would have you believe.
Once again the joy of this film is in the dialogue between Angel-A and Andre something that has always been a strong point of Besson’s films as memorably seen with the likes of “Nikita” and “Leon” and again here it is the case as even scenes such as Angel-A declaring her love of croissants are shot with such playful curiosity and fun that the film never suffers from being boring even in the moments when it decides to slow things down between madcap sequences. Equally Paris makes for a stunning backdrop to the film, with Besson it seems aiming to shoot in only the most beautiful or engaging surroundings as he combines scenes of old and new Paris to powerful effect while making the film seem like one big love letter to the city he adores.
While the film is strong for the most part Besson does however kind of let things slip by the finale which for some tastes might come off a little saturnine, but when the journey is so much fun and seeing how these two characters grow together its easy to overlook such things even more so when this is classic Besson rather than his Hollywood style we’ve become more used to in recent years.