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The plot (don't worry, no spoilers): André is a regular swindler. He lies and cheats all the time and owes money to almost every criminal in Paris. After being beaten and threatened for the umpteenth time, he decides to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. On the verge of committing this act of despair, while standing on a bridge, he looks to the left and sees a girl about to do the same thing. When she jumps, he jumps after her and saves her from drowning. She's so thankful that she offers to do anything he wants while constantly remaining at his side. Suprisedly, she turns out to be a real life-saver by finding a lot of dubious ways to earn money and pay off André's debts. After a while André wants to know why she's doing all these things for him and is curious about her past...
Jamel Debbouze (you might know him as the slightly retarded grocer's assistant in LE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMÉLIE POULAIN) is particularly good as the nervous André. The Dannish Rie Rasmussen, a sexy blond goddess with legs that go all the way, takes a little more time to convince as Angela. However, there is a certain chemistry between the two of them. The other characters are merely caricatured portraits of criminals and gangsters.
The story is rather straightforward and relies a lot on funny situations and dialogues. A lot of talking is being done and I must say most of the lines are well-written. Near the end of the movie, unfortunately, Luc Besson goes way over-the-top, making the movie lose a lot of credibility. But then again, it just might be possible that the end could be interpreted in two different ways. And that makes me suspect that Besson likes to play it safe by trying to please as many viewers as possible.
Anyway, a very important reason to watch this movie is the atmospheric black & white-photography by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, who also worked on Besson's previous films. Paris, during autumn, is beautifully transferred to the screen with well-balanced lighting. The movie also has some impressive shots of 'la Tour Eiffel', a cathedral in 'le XVe arrondissement' and the many bridges to be found in Paris.
Most likely ANGEL-A will have as many defenders as adversaries, not necessarily to be divided in Besson-fans and not-fans respectively. But both parties will have to admit Besson had the guts to try something different. So let the box-office decide whether this genre-effort is successful or not.
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
It has everything life is made of. The director seems to me as if he knew exactly what he wanted, and made a wonderful movie about anyone who is still human, and therefore is able to love-himself first-another person.
But the best use that can be given to this film is to adopt it as a manual of cognitive or rational-emotive therapy. A well respected field within psychology, cognitive therapy looks for transforming distorted thinking, which it is said, affects the mood, the behaviour and the life of people. That is simply what Angel-a does with Andre, giving him reasons to love himself, and teaching him techniques to change the way he thinks or speaks of himself. If we go to cinema some times to enjoy ourselves and some times to bring something to our lives, this movie allows us to do both. Art and cinema have also ethical consequences -in the sense of Foucault- giving us clues about how to live our lives better. In this sense the best description of Angel-a is given above by Elizabeth Arthur when she says that this is "a film about learning to love yourself".
Only one question remains: Why a director like Besson, who has been making movies about violence, decides to read about cognitive therapy and bring angels to earth and make a film like this?
Those who haven't watched the movie,my advice to you is-Please do.A beautiful love story set in the romantic city of Paris,Angel-A will steal your heart.A story that mainly focuses on character-development rather than mindless script work,Angel-A is a gem from Luc Besson.
The scenario, the cast, the play of the actors (the role of the nervous Andre is hard to be played, but Jamel Debbouze is a great choice, just like Rie Rasmussen with her infinite legs)...
It was too interesting for me that the film was shot early the morning, when the streets are empty and Angel-A and Andre are all alone in the beautiful black-and-white Paris (and world). If you don't like the movie, you can just relax and take an almost real voyage in Paris.
Now, please Monsieur Besson: Don't make us wait 6 years for the next live-action picture!
This is a "must see" for anyone who appreciates a good movie.
Jamel Debbouze (of Amelie fame) is André Moussah, always in a coat, and always with his damaged right hand tucked into the pocket. He doesn't have a good life, he has trouble telling the truth, he gets arrested for petty crimes here and there, and presently owes impatient men quite a sum of money. With time and options running out, even the jailer refusing to take him in for protection, he decides to take his life by jumping off a bridge into the Seine.
As he does, and looks to his left, he sees Rie Rasmussen as Angela (Angel-A), also preparing to jump off the same bridge. As she does he jumps in after her, to save her. And thus begins a wild ride in Andre's life. They make an odd-looking couple, he at 5-5 and she at over 6 feet with her high heels on, a fact accentuated by Besson's camera any chance they get.
A really fine, unique, and enjoyable movie. I give it high recommendations.
SPOILERS FOLLOW: Angela really is an angel, assigned to help Andre look at himself realistically and become a better person. She gets money to pay off his debts in a very unique way at a night club. And she gets Andre to eventually love who he is. But he also falls in love with her. When her assignment is over and they are talking near the bridge, her angel wings start to grow out, it is time for her to go. But Andre jumps and hangs onto her. Not being able to support both of them, they fall into the river. Back on shore, Angela examines her back, no sign of the wings, she is being given a chance to stay and live as a human.
Angel-A (2005) takes director Luc Besson back to his roots to some extent; giving us a slight, though no less charming little tale of love and loneliness that forgoes the kind of balletic, exotic action and violence that came to pepper his more iconic work throughout the 1990's, and instead, looks back to the quirky, stylish, character driven films that he produced in the early to mid 1980's. As a result, Angel-A seems indebted to the long since forgotten "cinema du look" movement; a brief cinematic resurgence in 1980's French cinema that saw a younger generation of filmmakers looking back to the days of Godard, Truffaut and the Nouvelle Vague, to create pop-culture referencing films dealing with doomed love and alienated Parisian youth. Although the film is very much evocative of that brief era in French cinema in which Besson came to prominence alongside filmmakers such as Jean Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax, Angel-A isn't a complete retread of his earlier work. In fact, the most notable thing about this film is the way in which Besson channels the spirit of his younger self - creating a film that is high in energy and expressive in both style and imagination - but also manages to bring to it the same sense of emotional maturity and character detail found in his much better films of the 90's; chiefly Nikita (1990) and Léon (1994).
Whereas his 80's films were content to fall back on clever visual gags, iconic characters and arch dialog, Angel-A takes these characteristics and applies them to a relationship that is as mysterious, provocative and believable as the one between Léon and Matilda, or even that of Corbin Dallas and Leeloo from his great pop-art science-fiction thriller, The Fifth Element (1997). It also gives us characters that we can care about and believe in; something that seems a million miles away from the puppet-like warriors of his first film, the wordless science-fiction parable The Last Battle (1983), or the ironic caricatures of the director's second feature, the chic and iconic crime thriller Subway (1985). Many have likened Angel-A to the classic Frank Capra film It's a Wonderful Life (1946), with the notion of a down on their luck character being brought back from the brink by a mysterious, angelic-like figure. This is true to some extent, but the difference is in the details and the overall message that the film presents. In It's a Wonderful Life, the central character played by James Stewart is shown how much poorer the world would be to his friends and family if he had never been born. In Angel-A however, the character of André is shown how great the world can be, if only he had the strength and the drive to take advantage of any situation, no matter how seemingly hopeless.
Some will obviously balk at the brazen romanticism on display here; particularly towards the end of the film in which André and Angela realise - without giving too much away - that they each fulfil some greater sense of purpose to one another; with Besson once again bringing things to a close on the Pont Alexandre III to create an interesting, circular aspect to the narrative, rife for reinterpretation. The relationship between André and Angela is a very beautiful one, playing off the obvious differences in their appearance and the slow reversal of roles that takes place over the course of the film's duration. It also works as a result of the pitch-perfect casting of comedian Jamel Debbouze as the luckless André and supermodel Rie Rasmussen as the protective Angela, and the subtlety and compassion that both of these performers bring to their respective characters. With this in mind, Angel-A, for me at least, is as beautiful as cinema gets; perfectly tapping into the spirit of the "cinema du look" approach with the glossy photography, sharp-pacing and imaginative use of production design, but with an interesting story and characters that manage to elicit real and captivating emotions.
The continual interplay between the two characters and the presentation of their plight is beautifully done, featuring some of Besson's best writing and dialog; with at least two scenes (in particular, the "mirror scene" and the penultimate scene back on the bridge) almost bringing me to tears. It is unconventional, shamelessly romantic and prone to the kind of unashamed flights of fantasy that really require an enormous amount of suspension of disbelief... but it is worth it. Angela-A is a beautiful film, not only in the way in which it is presented, but in the relationship of its central characters and the deeper, philosophical interpretations of the plot. Quite clearly a hard sell for many, perhaps more cynical viewers, but for me, this is a genuinely imaginative and inventive film that moved and delighted me on a profoundly personal level.
Angel-A is a romantic comedy shot in black and white and with subtitles. While it is not entirely without merit, the fancy wrapper, illustrated with a plentiful helping of Parisian photo-opportunities, should not lull you into believing you are watching of film of real quality or substance. While there is a great mish-mash of talent scattered throughout, I found myself wishing for the first half that a Hollywood re-make could edit the jokes with better comic timing. "Your problem is that you're always running instead of hitting pause," the leggy blonde heroine (Angela) tells our forsaken and suicidal André, and that's exactly what it feels like as the verbal jokes are disgorged on an audience without time to digest or appreciate them, and the slapstick is wasted from lack of pacing.
Fortunately things do get better, especially as we are made privy to Angela's mission. Having picked up some emotional ballast, the jokes have more to reverberate off. The best bit, after being given a mission, she tells him, is going to wardrobe - on this occasion she has decided to do "slut" - which she pulls off very convincingly (although when she turns her hand to beating up bad guys she reminded me more of the deadly android Pris from Bladerunner).
Angela's rather more-than-human task could easily have descended into farce, but Besson cleverly chooses the moment of revelation to get more serious. From hereon in, the movie gets more interesting, throwing in gender psychology and marginally more intellectual challenges. "I am you," she tells him - he may be a man on the outside but inside he's just a six-foot slut. The emptiness of the opening section makes this intense characterisation welcome and I could eat up such pretentious lines and the tearful looks with glee. It even makes sure it doesn't take itself too seriously (the line follows on from a scene where André is getting changed in a women's toilet and Angela counters an elderly lady's vexation by insisting, "He's a woman really", implying he's transsexual.) Although Angel-A has 'strong language and sex references' justifying its '15' certificate, there's no nudity and we are left wondering if even the sex scenes were in our imagination. Besson does succeed in getting us to think about Angels - as well as Fallen Angels, Falling in Love, and Why do Angels Need to Eat a Calcium-Rich Diet; but the idea of angels shedding some divine light into the life of mortals is heavily polluted with selfish wish-fulfilment. In the Bible, angels were originally 'sons of God' who came to earth to sire children on mortal women. Later, they were called demons, 'fallen' angels, until the Book of Enoch cut to the chase in true patriarchal fashion and blamed women for the angels' fall. Here they ask us if happiness is not, indeed, in heaven. A 2005 Harris Poll showed that 68% of Americans believe in angels (rising to nearly 80% in the less educated), suggesting that the film will be further 'cleaned up' for any American re-make. Until then, if Angel-A is not exactly the classic it aspires to be, it's quirkier and classier than the average chick-flick and should be enjoyed as such. Much could be said in criticism of it, but for such a relatively humble offering it could be more divine to forgive.
Before I describe the film, let me say that it all leads to, and away from, one quite devastating scene. It is a scene, played out by the two leads, staring directly into a mirror and having a conversation with each other. The camera pans behind the glass, allowing us as viewers to become the mirror. I became so captivated by the emotions of that moment because I saw pieces of myself in Jamel Debbouze's character. For an instant, I entirely mirrored his feelings. After having seen over 3000 films in my life, it ranks as one of my favorite cinematic moments to date.
Jamel Debbouze plays Andre, a down on his luck Frenchman who is in grave financial difficulties with the wrong crowd. He is trapped in Paris because he has lost all of his identification, including the American green card that could get him back to his New York City home. The US embassy is not too keen to help him as he has a recent conviction for fraud on his record.
When all is seemingly lost and time has run out on his debts, Andre steps over the barrier to Le pont Alexandre III in order to throw himself into the Seine. Moments away from the desperate act, he peers to his left, only to see a statuesque blonde, twenty feet away, about to do the same thing.
Rie Rasmussen plays "Angel-A" (pronounced like Angela with a French accent), a 6-foot beauty with the body of a supermodel and the face of an angel. Weeping, she launches herself into the famous river. Jamel instantly follows in an attempt to rescue her. He drags her ashore.
Andre questions her desire to commit suicide. After all, how can someone so beautiful want to do such a drastic thing? Surely there most be something to live for? Angel-A returns the questions, which only serves to irritate him. He is just a short, average looking man, with enormous money problems. He loves no one and no one loves him. What more does he have to live for? She offers herself as a devoted friend, volunteering her life to him. What he says goes. Needless to say, Andre is sceptical.
What follows is a black and white tour of the most beautiful city in the world today. Luc Besson's incredible framing and camera work follows these two people as they dart in and around some of the most famous landmarks in Europe. There is nothing quite like Paris in black and white. Each and every frame of this film would hang proudly in any art gallery. It is one of the most aesthetically gorgeous films I've ever seen.
What makes it even more resplendent to behold is the presence of Rie Rasmussen. One would think that a supermodel with only one acting credit under her belt (as the diamond-clad thief in De Palma's "Femme Fatale") would not be a stand-out performer. One would be wrong.
Rasmussen is a renaissance woman if there ever was one. I've been a big fan ever since her infamous catwalk wink at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in 2001. She has since directed two magnificent & acclaimed short films, "Il Vestito" & "Thinning the Herd". Those efforts will soon lead to a major directorial production. She has published a book of her photography entitled Grafisk. Her canvas artwork is extraordinary. And, based on this performance, her acting skills extend far beyond making out with Rebecca Romijn.
Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen are perfectly cast as the hapless loser and the angelic guide. Both of them create three dimensional characters that are full of surprises. The two of them generate laughs and thrills and tears. It is a master-class in acting. I loved watching them, in what is essentially a two-character play, react off each other for the entire ninety-minute running length. There is passion. There is anger. There is silliness. There is tenderness. There is empathy. Debbouze and Rasmussen deliver on all levels.
"Angel-A" is a truly lovely film about finding love... for another as well as for oneself. It is superbly shot by the visual genius, Luc Besson... who finally matches that visual mastery with a story that earns such an effort. The lead actors will not win Oscars because The Academy never rewards such small foreign films -- but it should make an exception in this case. This film is endlessly entertaining, hopelessly romantic and devilishly witty. It is one of my favorite films in recent years and I urge you to go out of your way to find it.
Written by TC Candler IndependentCritics.com
Both a fairy tale and a gritty look at Paris' underworld Besson mixes together a wonderful romance adds humor and fear and gives us something unique and magical.
We were really moved by this: a tale of love that is definitely out of the ordinary. Shot in black and white and beautifully lit and composed, there is an ethereal, yet truly gritty tone to this that really does capture the viewer.
The plot is almost impossible to describe without revealing spoilers, except to say André, a total loser, jumps from a bridge and saves Angela, and the adventure begins.
Above all, this is film, and a film that you can experience and remember: a masterclass in brilliant captivating storytelling it might well be one of the great romantic movies - just different from beginning to end - and warmly recommended.
As Andre, Debbouze is a down and out would-be artist living in Paris. Though he prefers to think of himself as an American on some sort of bohemian cultural adventure, it appears more likely that he's a Moroccan immigrant with big plans to strike it rich investing in olive crops in South America. His meager financial means make those plans unlikely to become reality. When he's unable to pay back money borrowed from the mob, he decides to commit suicide by jumping off the Alexander III Bridge into the Seine River. However, just as he's about to jump, he notices a blonde woman about to do the same. Despite her obvious intentions, he asks what she's doing. She answers by making the jump.
Although he was fully prepared to cancel his own life, Andre ends up saving that of the woman he eventually comes to know as "Angel-A." Happy though he is to have spared her, he also finds himself lamenting, "I can't even kill myself without someone f*****g it up!" That the individual he has rescued is someone extraordinary is apparent from her beauty, which stands out even while she's dripping wet and disheveled. A clue to just how extraordinary she may be is provided when she stands up and towers over Andre's five-foot-five form. In exchange for having saved her life, the woman vows to serve Andre in any manner he chooses. To Andre's way of thinking, it will be good enough just to have this beautiful creature by his side and allow the association with her to bestow some degree of dignity upon him. Angel-A's way of thinking turns out to be very different when she proves she can, and does, deliver a great deal more.
As Angel-A proceeds to correct, one by one, Andre's financial and legal woes with the mob, the struggling transplant can hardly believe or accept his good fortune. Like most modern-minded individuals probably would do, he rejects her revelation that she's actually an angel. After all, her chosen disguise for this visit to earth is, in her own words, that of "a six-foot sexy bitch." She provides Andre with both the proof he requires and certain solutions needed to his mortal dilemmas. The greatest challenge turns out not to be Andre's problems with the mob but his lack of respect and love for none other than: Andre. After Angel-A gives her charge the gift of himself, he of course falls dangerously in love with her. However, the brilliant twist in this film is the dilemma with which Angel-A finds herself literally wrestling once her mission to assist Andre appears to have been completed and her wings spread to fly her back to heaven.
Rie Rasmussen--a student of directing as well as an actor and writer--is a dazzling marvel in her portrayal of the title character. She and Debbouze, aided by Besson's fantastic script, share an on-screen chemistry that grows more incandescent with every scene. The city of Paris itself also gives an amazing kind of performance as the flawless setting for this modern metaphysical fable. That the film was shot in black and white adds immensely to its poetic enchantments and irresistible romantic appeal.
by Author-Poet Aberjhani author of "The Bridge of Silver Wings" and "Christmas When Music Almost Killed the World"
Shot in glorious black and white I don't know when Paris ever looked this good. Its a glorious looking film that is a real treat to look at. I had to take a couple of phone calls during the film so I paused the movie, only to find beautiful art print style pictures on my TV. Heavenly.
The plot line, of an angel helping out our stumble bum hero is a well worn one. Whats different is how Besson plays it against expectations, clearly he's a man who needs a bit of help, but contrary to most films of this type he's not a complete idiot. He's a man who's been worn away by the world and who really just needs some one to believe in him. (this would be a great double feature with Wings of Desire) To be honest most of the plot of Andre needing to get money and Angela helping him doesn't really work all that well. Its clearly been put in place so that Andre and Angela have something to do. What shines through that is the interplay between the two characters. There is a real affection for each other. Indeed once the money plot goes by the wayside and we simply concentrates on the two leads (who are in almost every shot) the film becomes a wonderful touching tale. More than once a tear came to my eye as the two slowly began to crash into each other. Its wonderfully romantic.
A word of warning. This is an odd ball movie in a way. The film is not what you think it is, or rather it wasn't what I thought it was. About half way through I was tempted to restart the film and watch it again because I suddenly had the feeling that I was not liking the film as much as I was going to on the next go round. It was clear that the film was doing what it wanted and that I wasn't ready to take it on its own terms. I resisted the temptation, but I'm pretty certain that I'm going to like this better on the second go round. I have a feeling this is a film you like the first time and love the second.
Warnings and reservations aside I do recommend this film. If you can go with its vibe I think you'll have a really good time. As for me, it made me wish I I had some one to love like that.