Angel-A (15)

Written and Directed by Luc Besson
Screening at FACT from 11th-17th August 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

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 particularly excited.

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 hoping.

Printer friendly page