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Angel-A - Review

Angela (Rie Rasmussen) and Andre (Jamel Debbouze) in Angel-A

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Making Of Featurette; Angel-A Music Video; Making Of The Music Video; Theatrical Trailer.

IT’S been seven years since visionary French director Luc Besson last got behind the camera (with the forgettable Joan of Arc). But while his comeback isn’t the all-conquering success it might have been, it’s a visually distinctive and frequently amusing bittersweet tale of love and personal redemption.

Jamel Debbouze stars as Andre, an Algerian conman and perpetual liar, whose Paris-based existence is about to come to a very painful end. He owes money to several loan sharks and simply doesn’t have the means to pay it.

Desperate to the point of being suicidal, Andre is about to jump off a bridge when he meets and is forced to save the mysterious blonde Angela (Rie Rasmussen) from a similarly suicidal act.

Smitten with this statuesque beauty, Andre agrees to hang out with her and get his own life in order unaware that she is, in fact, his guardian angel.

Besson’s film, while talky in places and certainly not on a par with the likes of Nikita or Leon, remains a deeply fascinating affair that contains many nice touches that can only be the work of a master craftsman.

For starters, his film looks terrific making the maximum use of its Paris locations and the expert cinematography of ace black and white photographer Thierry Arbogast. If only on a visual level, the film will certainly have you hooked.

But in Andre and Angela, Besson also delivers two memorably quirky characters – one short and scruffy, the other impossibly tall and beautiful – who make for one of the oddest couples of recent years.

Although difficult to like at first, Andre eventually becomes someone worth rooting for, while the sulky Angela is an intoxicating presence (especially when putting her looks to devastating effect).

A nice line in black humour (both violent and sexual) also lends the film a suitably darker tone that’s in keeping with Besson’s best work in spite of the angelic overtones (there are times when you might be wondering if Angela really has been delivered from on high).

So if you’re in the mood for something a little bit different, this French take on Wings of Desire offers an enthralling night’s viewing, as well as a welcome return from one of European cinema’s greatest visual stylists.

(In French, with subtitles)

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Certificate: 15
Running time: 91mins