Luc Besson’s ANGEL-A, in the first ten minutes or so, seemed like it would be insufferable – one of the oldest set-ups in the world (depressed man about to jump off a bridge suddenly spies a beautiful woman about to do the same thing; she jumps first and he saves her! Quel surprise!!), followed by some pretty clueless line readings, posing as her side of a dialogue, from statuesque eye-candy Rie Rasmussen. I fully credit the engaging Jamel Debbouze for investing her with any credibility at all – we grow into believing in her because he does.
But if you stick with this film, it’s surprisingly easy to fall into. Angela is a guardian angel, and she is consigned to awaken André’s belief in himself. And André himself presents difficulties, needless to say. The guilelessness of the whole film is it’s salvation. It’s predictable in it’s I’ll-save-you-no-let-me, I-give-up-oh-yeah-well-so-do-I rhythms and plot ‘twists’. Besson pays shameless sentimental homage to the Capra-esque mechanics of the plot, yet throws in enough rough edges to keep things from getting too maudlin. Rasmussen doesn’t interact with Debbouze particularly well acting-wise, but she has a rock-solid idea of what her function is, and performs it with enthusiasm and integrity. Over ninety minutes, it becomes a genuinely admirable performance. What other film would dare posit that a female emissary from God had just gang-banged a nightclub’s entire male population, for the money? Rasmussen’s persistence, and Debbouze’s likeability, win out, trust me.
Also noteable is Thierry Arbogast’s flat-out gorgeous black-and-white cinematography – Wings Of Desire is the obvious reference, but Arbogast mixes in enough of his own novel imagery and lighting ideas to convince you he’s not just ripping off Henri Alekan.
I won’t kid you – this film is a predictable fairy tale. Think that gang-bang really could have happened? Think André may not be saved by Angela? Think Angela will finish her mission and abandon André, sadder but wiser? Then you’re probably too jaded to enjoy this – all told, it’s pretty fluffy. But it’s beautifully fluffy, well-executed fluffy, fluffy for grown-ups. It’s not for everyone, but there are far worse wastes of time. I considered this a very good, worthwhile waste of time.
For the earthier, this-doesn’t-sound-like-my-kinda-thing types among you, may I recommend ‘The Girl On The Bridge’ – same set-up, with a wonderfully dark and original story of what-happens-next, featuring major-league acting turns from Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis.
You may also be relieved to know my Netflix list from here consists of a pretty sizeable chunk of American films. I’m a shameless Francophile, but I’ll ease up over the next few weeks.