on 14 February 2010
This is a surreal feel-good comedy from one of France's best directors. We have a downtrodden loser at the end of his tether who meets a catwalk model of an angel who turns his life around and changes how he sees himself and the world around him.
Paris itself is the third leading character in this tale and the cinematography is glorious. It's all been well planned and even short scenes of the two main characters are filmed in the most visually appealing way, for example they'll be walking across a bridge for just a few seconds - but they'll be filmed from beyond one of the other bridges to show off just how beautiful the summer sun makes Paris look. This happens time and again, and adds up to a visual treat for anybody with a soft spot for Paris. The ending is completely mad and emphasises that this is a modern day fairytale, nothing more nothing less, and that dramatic finale makes Angel-A seem very different (in a lighter, crazy way) for the second viewing. The film gets a second life when you know what's coming.
I had it on dvd and saw it plenty of times, so when it came out on the better format I replaced it immediately and I'm glad I did. The transfer is magnificent. The greys and blacks have become so rich, and there are great swathes of very soft tints slipped into some scenes which weren't so obvious on dvd, such as the skies above Paris having the vaguest of blue hues. The clarity is cranked up a gear and therefore I am one pleased customer.
Strange though, the subtitles have been re-done and some lines have been re-interpreted and some words have been ditched. It doesn't really matter, but it does make me wonder how the mood or tone of foreign films can be changed by the people who do the subtitles.
Coming from Writer/Director LUC BESSON who gave the world the Sci-Fi/Indiana Jones extravaganzas "The Fifth Element" and "The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec" and tense/ballsy thrillers like "Taken", "Nikita" and "Leon" - the pared-back almost serene "Angel-A" is not what you'd expect from this amazingly gifted Frenchman. Yet it so works.
Large part of the credit has to go to the casting one of his favourite lead actors JAMEL DEBBOUZE. Squat, cute, compelling - his lined crumpled features and stubbly chin are akin to a French Humphrey Bogart - the kind of actor whose face and watery eyes can express so much and have you routing for his character with an investment that feels personal. And like most Male Directors of a certain age - our Luc likes his leading ladies too (the prettier the better). Enter the extraordinary-looking RIE RASMUSSEN.
Jamel plays Andre Massau - an Algerian pint-sized low-life living in Paris who steals croissants from restaurant tables and owes money to Frank the Frenchman and Pedro the Spaniard. But unless Andre pays up more than 50,000 Euro by midnight Saturday - his body will be `everywhere' on Sunday morning. Failing to find solace in the American Embassy (a green card he won in a Lottery), even the French Police won't put him in Jail so he can be safe for a few days. Andre finally goes to the bridge overlooking the Seine and toys with the idea of ending it all. But annoyingly he's not alone. A six-foot high stick-insect blond in a tight black party dress with a pearl necklace sporting legs that stretch six miles into the ground is also on the wrong side of the ornate railings about to do the same. With her tear-stained makeup - she jumps - Andre follows - pulls her to the embankment - and for saving her from the clutches of despair - she 'gives' herself and her services to him for the whole of Sunday. But first she needs a cigarette...
The similarity between "Angel-A" and "It's A Wonderful Life" with its message of intervention to show us the errors of our ways will not escape many - Besson has just updated the story to modern day living. His principal character Andre is a self-loathing loser who still has some good left inside him somewhere. He just desperately needs to learn to "breathe" and "live in the moment" - and who better to teach him than a 300-year old chain-smoking angel falling from the sky that looks like a high-class hooker. But as Andre watches Angela pimp herself out in a nightclub for 1000 Euro per sweaty leering client - he begins to see the consequences of his greed - and worse - how he is his own worst enemy (sharks he repays with her ill-gotten gains tap into his gullible nature again by flattery because they know it works).
Cleverly resisting flashy celestial scenes - special effects are kept to a minimum allowing story and character to be all. But as Andre's eventful Sunday progresses - slowly Angela wakes him up (dialogue above) and after an ashtray reveal in a café - money worries don't matter anymore because love is also in the air.
First up is the look of "Angel-A". Shot in black and white in old-world Paris - the locations and city pulse are beautifully rendered on BLU RAY. Defaulted to 2.35:1 aspect - there are bars on the top and bottom - but even stretched to full screen - the picture is never anything less than cinematically fab (note: if you do extend the aspect - the English subtitles will go off-screen).
There's an entertaining "Making Of" featurette that has interviews with Director, Producer JEROME LATEUR and the Cast, a "Making Of The Music For Angel-A" featuring composer ANJA GARBAREK and her musicians and a Theatrical Trailer. English is the Subtitle for this French-language film.
"Angel-A" isn't your typical box-office fare - but it is masterfully done - and will get to you more than you think. Flap your credit card's wings for this one...
I have no hesitation in giving top marks to this stylish French film. It is filmed beautifully in monochrome, the acting performances from Rie Rasmussen and Jamel Debbouuze are impeccable ,the musical soundtrack is enchanting and the storyline is captivating.Debbouze plays a businessman,Andre, up to his ears in debt to a number of dangerous criminals, while the svelte,stunning Rasmussen plays a mysterious stranger whose name,Angela, provides a clue to her real identity.Their paths cross on a bridge and the pair gradually build up a close relationship as Angela assists Andre with his debt problems and helps him feel better about himself and life in general. The on screen chemistry between the unlikely pair is very strong and the film touches on a number of key themes such as the transforming power of love, the unnoticed influence of the supernatural and the importance of a sense of amour propre. Quirky and idiosyncratic, romantic and witty, "Angel-A" is one of the best films that I have seen this year.
Directed by Luc Besson, Angel-A was first released in 2005. It's a French romcom (not quite what most would expect from Besson) and stars Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen in the two lead roles.
André is 28 years old and badly down on his luck. Although his working practices have been a little shady in the past, he's trying to make an honest fist of things and - following a recent trip abroad - is sure that his big break is just around the corner. However, given that he owes an absolute fortune to nearly every crook, villain and gangster in Paris, he mightn't live to see the good times. Having sought help and protection from both the police - who wouldn't lock him up for a few days - and the US Embassy - although of North African descent, he holds a green card - he's left alone and desperate. Eventually, he gives up and decides to throw himself off a bridge and into the Seine...and, just as he's about to jump, he notices Angela to his left. In fairness, Angela is very distracting : she's a tall, very leggy and exceptionally beautiful blonde...and the dress she's wearing only just keeps everything covered. Although he pleads with her not to jump, she won't listen...and so, rather than ending his own life, André finds himself jumping in and saving Angela's. The pair get talking on the banks of the river and, by way of thanks, Angela dedicates herself to helping André. Miraculously, with Angela on his side, things start looking up very, very quickly...
It is subtitled (which may put some people off) and it mightn't appeal to the very innocent, but I loved it. There is a real `feel-good' element to the movie and there is a pretty obvious comparison to "It's a Wonderful Life". Some of the better known locations of Paris are used as the story's backdrop - the Seine and its bridges, the bateaux mouche and the Eiffel Tower - and it's very stylishly shot in black and white. A film I'd have no hesitation in recommending.
on 31 December 2010
Despite being a fan of Besson's earlier work, I had a lot of apprehension about purchasing this title given some of the producing credits besson has gathered in last decade.
However I am glad that I did, as Angel-A displays all of the inventiveness and enjoyability of his late 80's/90's output, with a new found humour and cinematic zeal. I won't say too much about the plot of film, other than to mention that I found it to be an enjoyable and modern alternative to fare such as it's a wonderful life, with excellent performances from the lead actors in particular.
Whilst the scripting of the film is arguably somewhat predictable, the film should appeal to due to its knowing dark humour, and its pacey brevity.
In relation to the Blu Ray, I believe optimum have put this out on a single sided BD25 disc. The Monochrome photography is displayed well, with crisp blacks and no apparent artefact issues, however the image did not have much 'pop' for a recent release, and I think it could have flourished with the extra storage of a double sided disc despite it's short running length (as always besson has a very dynamic camera, and there are some stand out shots of some very well known Paris locales).
The extras on the disc add little to the overall package, but do shed some light on the production process; although given the gap since Besson's previous films it would have been nice to have something more director specific.
Overall this is an enjoyable film, presented well on Blu Ray disc
I've watched this film three times since acquiring it a couple of weeks ago, and all with whom I've shared it have been similarly touched. I think the word for this film is delightful, and it's central message, whilst being very simple, is so rarely practiced in life; that to love and be loved one must love oneself, and this cannot be so without the honesty to truly accept who one really is. As Angela says, 'it's what's inside that counts'. How often do we hear it? How rarely do we feel it? (I can of course only speak for myself). The story is told with humour and touching pathos, and provides a vehicle for some simple albeit precious wisdom.
Jamel Debbouze gives a fine performance as Andre, the down on his luck everyman, whose life of little lies is now crashing down about him. His performance is deceptively understated thereby makng space for the wonderful Rie Rasmussen character, Andre's anima-like Guardian Angel, who his been sent to show him his true nature just when all seems blacket. The Angela character shimmers wonderfully between an exotic sensuality and a profound and kindly wisdom.
The film is gorgeously shot in black and white, in Paris at it's most photogenic. Much of it must have been shot at 5 a.m. on Sunday mornings as it is remarkably uncluttered with traffic. Sometimes we get some of the humorously bizarre visual touches that we got from Besson in Fifth Element. I must say my wife and I have a deepening interest in photography, and this film has inspired us both to plan a trip to Paris with more serious cameras as soon as possible.
Anyone with a bit of kindness in their heart will get something out of this lovely, life affirming movie. As cinematic storytelling goes I guess it's in the same corner as classics like 'It's a Wonderful Life' but it has it's own style and its own message.
on 9 July 2012
A subtitled French film. Centred around two characters we are taken to the seedy areas of Paris where angela is trying to keep our loser out of trouble and maybe set him on the straight and narrow. Her methods are unconventional but seem effective.
Although the film starts ok about half an hour in we both thought about giving up on it. however we carried on watching (well we had paid for it) and the plot and story improved immeasurably. By the end we had definately had our moneys worth.
on 10 February 2013
A man of Arab heritage, Andre, falls foul of the Parisian gangsters, the US and French authorities; up to his eyes in loan shark debt with all its related, he decides to check out by throwing himself into the Seine. Along comes Angela who does the same, he saves her. He learns she is an angel who has decided to take up the persona of chain-smoking sex worker complete with an extremely short mini skirt. Her mission is to give him spiritual strength and to save himself from himself and his adversaries. She does this by flirty type behaviour towards Andre's creditors and doing tricks with men in the toilet at a 1000 euros at a time - this is much to the despair of Andre. The synopsis ends there, the film is beautifully photographed in luxiourious Parisian black and white (we see a wonderfully sparkly Eiffel Tower in the background). The acting is pretty good too, Rie Rasmussen is sassy, sexy, a veritable femme fatale but as the story unfolds, she delivers all the contradictions / roles about how men view women - angel, saviours, girl-friends, wives, prostitutes and mothers. This is complemented by how Jamel Debbouze plays his part, hapless and delusional and consequently despairing. The despair becomes all too apparent. Great film
on 6 March 2012
Most reviewers say how stunning the scenery & camera work of this is. I completely agree. It will feel familiar for fans of the classic "It's a Wonderful Life", only darker. Good use of B&W to highlight contrasts of ideas as well as images, especially between the physicalities of our main actors.
But I am a fan of Luc Besson, and I spotted that this had Jamel Debbouze (the very entertaining and interesting grocer's assistant in Amelie). I was keen to see what Jamel could do and he certainly does some hard work. It almost pays off until the climatic end scene where his character gets a little too rough and manly for my liking. I do not know if this was impro or directed, but it is uncomfortable in the wrong way, unliek the way that the rest of the film should have been but wasn't.
Rie Rasmussen is much better than I expected after she first appears and you might think, oh god is this Luc's latest girlfriend? BUt she stands tall, literally and is very believable in her ultimate frailty.
The plot is an excellent opportunity to exmanine some basics about the human condition. I think it could have got darker without being nastier.
Great for my collecition of French films and worth the rewatch from time to time.
on 10 September 2011
This movie is beautifully shot and has some funny and touching moments, but the second half and the conclusion is predictable and rather cringe-worthy. The idea of 'learning to love yourself' is ultimately presented too bluntly, so that it loses much of its resonance.
I enjoyed watching this movie once but I didn't find it sufficiently engaging to want to watch it again.