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André, a small-time ex-convict, seems to owe money to everyone in Paris, including a crime boss who promises to kill him if he doesn't repay him by midnight. After failing to find protection from the American embassy and the French police, a despairing André scrambles onto a bridge over the Seine, intending to leap to his death. He is surprised to see a tall, beautiful girl clinging to a rail on the same bridge, apparently preparing to end her life as well. She jumps, and he jumps too, suddenly resolving to save her life. After scrambling ashore, she tells him her name is Angel-A. Together, they take a cruise on the Seine, repay André's creditors, visit a Parisian nightspot, and more, as Angel-A helps André. He learns that for this purpose she has fallen out of the sky and into his life. André finds himself falling in love with this mysterious beauty. Written by
Angel-A is an easy film to knock. Superficially, there isn't a great deal to endear it to any particular type of audience. For example, there's barely any action, no sex or nudity, there are no big Hollywood stars, it's not sufficiently intellectual to be an 'art-house movie' (despite being black & white!) and, although it has amusing moments, it's hardly a comedy. In addition, the film is only focused on the two main characters and, even then, it's only really about one of them. The remaining participants are (quite deliberately it appears) straightforward stereotypes who allow the simple story to progress. The quality of acting from Rie Rasmussen seems far from impressive but, to be fair, she's not speaking in her native language. Mind you, her awkward portrayal of the titular character seems to work well and she certainly stands out as a 'fish out of water'.
But despite the film's potential short-comings, there are three saving graces that transform Angel-A from a rather average 7 to a brilliant 9 in my eyes: the breathtaking cinematography (thank you Luc Besson), the magnificent casting (Jamel Debbouze is perfect as André) and the heart- warming gentle story (which stayed with me long after the film had finished). In fact, I would go so far as to say that Angel-A could leave you examining your own life and wondering when was the last time you stopped to 'respire and regard' the beautiful world around you and consider how the way you feel about yourself might well have a direct impact on how others treat you.
However, Angel-A is one of those films that you have to be in the right mood to watch. If you don't allow yourself to relax and be drawn into the fairytale, the story can easily fall flat. You also have to give it a chance to get started; the fast-paced dialogue at the beginning makes it hard to watch the pictures at the same time as reading the words (unless you're French of course!). But once Angela enters the frame, the story takes off on a stunningly gorgeous wander around Paris and the way that the tale gently unfolds in the second half of the film is wonderfully touching. There are many moments of outstanding beauty and even the superficially simplistic long-shots of Angela & André crossing the Seine have a mysterious magical quality about them. Actually, the whole film feels slightly unreal; this is partly down to the subject matter but also to the way it was filmed in an almost-empty Paris at odd times of the day.
So, in summary, I love Angel-A. It's one of those films you can watch again and again quite happily and find new insights from each viewing. There are so many scenes that quickly become favourite moments as you watch it multiple times. The contrast between the giant Nordic goddess and the shifty little North-African seems to work brilliantly and the backdrop of a beautiful black & white Paris with incredible lighting more than makes up for a few minor flaws. 9/10
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