Angel - A (2005)
Director/Writer: Luc Besson
Cast: Jamel Debouzze, Rie Rasmussen
Luc Bessson’s films have always had this strong visual sense to them, he likes to load them with amazing shots, an abundance of color and detail. But one of the things that I’ve also noticed about his films is that he cares a lot about emotion, he likes to make us feel, to appreciate each other, to enjoy life. He likes to make us remember that love overpowers anything. Remember how in The Fifth Element (1997) the final element in the equation was true love? Besson likes to show through his films that love is what makes life worthwhile, which is something I enjoy about his films. Angel-A is no exception, it’s yet another film emphasizing love for others and for oneself. The thing about Angel-A is that the first few minutes lead you to believe that this is going to be just another by the numbers film about a guy who owes money to some gangsters, but if you keep watching, you’ll soon realize that that’s just the kick off point for something far more profound and touching.
Angel-A is all about a hustler named Andre. He owes around 50 thousand dollars to various unsavory dudes out on the streets and they have all decided to come collecting at the same time. So Andre has a couple of henchmen after him looking to punch his lights out. When he sees no exit to it all, he decides to jump of a bridge. Before he does that, he looks up at the sky and asks God why he’s never answered any of his cries for help. Andre doesn’t know it, but God has listened this time. And he’s sent one of his angels to help, her name is Angela.
The premise for Angel-A (2005) is not a new one; that of an Angel being sent down from heaven to help a human who is in a particularly nasty situation. One example that comes to mind is The Heavenly Kid (1985), a film about a guy who’s got to earn his place in heaven by helping somebody on earth. The idea of an Angel falling in love for the person they are supposed to be helping has also been done before in films like Date with an Angel (1987), Always (1989), City of Angels (1998), and one of my all time favorite movies about angels: Wings of Desire (1987). But Angel-A is a different kind of angel movie. Angela is far from perfect, she’s no goodie little two shoes. She smokes cigarettes, kicks whoever’s ass she has to kick and fucks like there’s no tomorrow. Some movies play with the idea of a god sent Angel with more respect then others, this one is a loosey goosey version of an Angel. But besides that, she’s here to help Andre find his path and learn to love others and himself. Will she achieve her mission? Will Andre ever set his life on the right track?
A couple of things made this one a keeper for me. Number one is that it’s actually an unpredictable film; you think it’s going to play out one way and it goes another. I also enjoyed the fact that the film was in black and white. As an illustrator of black and white comic books, I enjoy the black and white aesthetic very much, I think it offers its own visual flare, it’s own uniqueness. Luc Besson exploits this black and white look of the film very much, the sets, the illumination, everything is done to exploit the black and white nature of the film. I loved that Paris is one of the main characters in the film. There are a few films in which the city becomes a character. Films like Taxi Driver (1976), Hirsohima Mon Amour (1959) and Lost in Translation (2003) are examples of films in which the city becomes an integral part to the films look and feel and Angel-A is one of these films. Besson chose some beautiful, iconic locations to set his film in and it just makes the movie that much more splendorous. I mean, Paris at night, there’s no way you’re not going to love that.
Then we have the final element that truly got me and it was this films heart. Besson’s films tend to be all about people truly feeling for each other, making connections in the middle of dire straits. Besson’s films are all about humans helping each other, especially when they are hitting rock bottom. Besson’s Leon: The Professional (1994) was all about Mathilda, an orphaned 12 year old girl finding an unlikely savior in the form of Leon, a hitman. Leon accepts her into his life, even though Mathilda obviously disrupts it. On Angel-A, it is Andre who begs God for a savior and gets it in the form of Angela, the sexy as hell, six foot, chain smoking Angel. The dynamics between Andre and Angela are fantastic. The contrast between a little guy and a six foot, sexy Angel makes for an interesting visual. Jamel Debouzze (Andre) and Rie Rasmussen (Angela) have great chemistry together, I bought their unlikely romance, they manage to stir some real emotions into their performances. There’s this amazing scene that really got to me in which Angela is showing Andre all about learning to love oneself, it literally brought tears to my eyes. It’s not every day a movie can do that to me. And it’s a testament to Debouzze and Rasmussen as actors and a testament to Besson’s talents as a filmmaker who knows how to nail emotions and a beautiful looking movie home.
Rating: 4 out of 5