Written and Directed by Luc Besson
Screening at FACT from 11th-17th August 2006
This is Parisian filmmaker Luc Besson’s first direction for six
years, and there is speculation it will be his last. If so, this is a
fitting curtain call for a career that has flattered to deceive, often
drowning in style and relegating substance to almost an afterthought.
Yes, Angel-A definitely looks great - thanks to cinematographer Thierry
Arbogast – but doesn’t offer enough of a story to get anyone
André (Jamal Debbouze) is a down-and-out in Paris. Far from his
home in Algeria, he is hopelessly indebted to gangsters and croissants
stolen from cafés give him just enough energy to dodge the goons.
When the police refuse to give him shelter in the cells (why doesn’t
he just punch one of them?), the bottom of the Seine seems like the most
attractive option. But on the bridge he spies Angela (Rie Rasmussen),
who is also about to leap into the river. He jumps in after her, and drags
her out of the water. But as is all too clear from the title, she isn’t
a real person, but is actually an angel sent from heaven to save him.
Aside from the exquisite moving painting feel, there are some definite
plus points. A peculiar chemistry is developed between statuesque former
model Rasmussen and puppy-eyed former stand-up comedian Debbouze, so they
share a few indisputably touching scenes. But it’s difficult not
to draw unfavourable comparisons with Frank Capra’s It’s a
Wonderful Life, which towers above this effort despite - or maybe because
of - its sixty years. The future Angela offers her downtrodden companion
is so uninspiring that this might be called ‘It’s A Mediocre
Life’. So much for the twenty-first century.
What has been learned in those six decades since the end of World War
Two? Are supernatural saviours still the only way out for the suicidal?
Could there ever be a movie where the billions of desperate people in
the world stop looking to the skies and turn to each other instead? Here’s