Angel-A is a little gem of a French film that fell under the radar in the U.S. “The Fifth Element” and “The Professional,” both directed by Besson, were both moderately popular in the U.S., but with Angel-A he taps into a sophisticated fantasy unlike anything in his previous films.
This time around, Besson shoots in Paris using black and white, which gives the film an artistic, ethereal quality to it. The film opens on a desperate man named Andre, played brilliantly by Jamel Debbouze. Andre has an assortment of vices, which when we meet him, seem to be finally catching up to him.
Andre is in deep debt, and has gotten to the point of contemplating suicide as he stands on the ledge of a beautiful bridge in Paris. As he readies himself to jump, he looks over to see a stunning, larger-than-life woman named Angela standing close, ready to do the same thing. She jumps, and without thinking Andre jumps in after her and saves her from drowning. Andre finds out Angela is not leaving him without helping him first, for she feels indebted to him for saving her.
As Angela follows Andre around the city while he tries to lie and cheat his way out of his debts and problems, she helps him effortlessly to correct his life. Debbouze plays Andre with an incredible humor behind the character. Even though you know Andre is a walking disaster, you find yourself charmed with him and root for him to see the light. Andre is the epitome of the goofy/lovable, deeper-than-he-realizes character that Besson loves to craft as his main man.
Angela has a larger than life presence on screen, but what is great is that she also has an element to her character that is literally larger than life, which reveals itself in the last half of the movie. The characters are so sincere feeling and developed, you believe the relationship that forms between them and how the world seems to bend around them.
Embodying the city of Paris, each scene in Angel-A is picturesque without being distracting, and the set dressing covers everything from romantic to futuristic. Angel-A is worth a watch for the unique characters; the endearing, comical Andre and the sexy, powerful Angela.
Besson leaves you wanting more of the relationship that forms between Angela and Andre, and how this world he creates seems to bend around them.