This was the official website for the 2005 film Angela-A directed by Luc Besson. The content below is from the site's archived pages as well as other outside review sources.
Angela-A is a moralistic tale about a man, Andre, who gets a second chance in life when he meets Angela, a tall, femme fatale whom he saves from a suicide bid in the Seine River.
Down-on-his-luck petty criminal Andre (Jamel Debbouze) has reached the end of his rope. Irreversibly in debt to a local gangster, with no one to turn to, his only solution is to plunge himself into the Seine. Just as he is perched to do so, a fellow bridge-jumper beats him to the water. Diving in, he saves Angela (Rie Rasmussen), a beautiful, statuesque and mysterious woman. As they pull themselves out the water, the two form a bond and venture into the streets of Paris determined to get Andre out of the hole he has found himself in. As Andre will find out, not all debts are financial, and sometimes the solutions to life's problems are found in the unlikeliest of places. Is Angela simply repaying Andre for his kindness, or are there other forces at work beyond his comprehension? The two spend a memorable summer night in nearly deserted Paris where Angela exposes herself as a true angel, sent down to save Andre from himself.
Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)
Genre: Art House & International, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance
Directed By: Luc Besson
Written By: Luc Besson
Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Olivier Claverie, Gilbert Melki, Kate Nauta, Serge Riaboukine
In Theaters: Dec 21, 2005 Wide
On DVD: Nov 20, 2007
Runtime: 90 minutes
******/10 Angel-A (2005)
BY CYNTHIA FUCHS
26 June 2005
Battered by Lack
Appearing in a meaningful freeze-frame, Andre (Jamel Debbouze) tells you a little something about himself. He’s got American citizenship and fine apartment in New York. He’s a “cute, fun-loving type of guy” and “hot in bed.” And oh yes, he adds, “I lie to myself and the whole world all day long.” And with that, the action commences, as a three-thug combo proceeds to beat Andre down.
Rendered in poetic black-and-white, Andre’s travails are nonetheless importunate. He’s a hustler, it turns out, and owes money to any number of hoodlums and gangsters, none inclined to grant him even 10 more seconds—as he asks this particular crew of thick-necked meanies—to “explain.” At last they break off the assault to give him until midnight, at which point they promise to come back and kill him. “You’re in over your head,” scoffs the chattiest ruffian. And indeed, it looks like Andre is exactly that. After he’s threatened by another gangster, Franck (Gilbert Melki)—who lectures him while his goon hangs him over the edge of the Eiffel Tower—Andre has no hope to pull together the 40,000+ euros he owes. So, following a couple of half-hearted pursuits of official mercy, at the U.S. Embassy (where he’s turned away for being such a derelict), then at a Parisian police station (where he’s tossed out for being so annoying), Andre sees only one option.
DIRECTOR: LUC BESSON
Cast: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Olivier Claverie, Gilbert Melki, Kate Nauta, Serge Riaboukine
(SONY PICTURES CLASSICS)
US THEATRICAL: 25 MAY 2007 (LIMITED RELEASE)
UK THEATRICAL: 28 JUL 2006 (LIMITED RELEASE)
Standing on a bridge over the Seine, Andre almost leaps, then spots his version of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life, only here, filtered through the repetitive imagination of Luc Besson, the angel is a stunner. Named Angela and over six feet tall in her heels, white-blond hair, and black minidress, she’s played by Danish supermodel Rie Rasmussen, which mainly means she appears to be as unlike the short, rumpled Andre. And yet, when she jumps into the river and he saves her, she not only offers herself up as grateful tagalong, but also as his inspiration and mirror. She claims to be him, or at least, as he might be inside another, frankly extraordinary body. “I’m all yours,” she says, towering over him. “You’re a good cause.”
Andre doesn’t take much of this seriously, except that even having her next to him earns him points with the cretins he runs with, and that she finds ways—off-screen—to pay off or talk down his usurers. During a session with Franck that is going especially badly, she takes Andre aside and schools him (“You negotiate like an amateur,” she smirks), then cuts a deal that Franck apparently can’t turn down. By the time she appears to be turning non-stop tricks in a nightclub bathroom in order to deliver wads of cash to Andre, who waits at the bar, drowning his unspoken upset in drink after drink.
True to the Bessonian formula, Andre is falling in love with Angela. How could he not? She’s as brilliant and selfless, vulnerable and exciting as any of the perfect girls in The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, and The Professional. That Angela is a literal angel only takes Besson’s usual set-up to a next logical step: like Milla Jovovich, Anne Parillaud, or 12-year-old Natalie Portman, she’s leggy and thin, at once pure, childish, and seductive. Angela is caught between wisdom and naivete, and perhaps ironically, burdened by the physicality of her heavenly origins—she has great, loud-flapping wings that carry her long lanky frame into the sky as if against her will.
This question of will comes up frequently in Angel-A. While Angela insists that Andre is her assignment (and that she has no choice in such matters), she’s as visibly drawn to him as he is to her. As they sit across from one another in a café, she insists, “I am you.” Andre’s laughter (“I’m a six foot sexy bitch”) doesn’t exactly undermine the point, which is that he will eventually recognize himself in her, and that her service as muse is only the most mundane aspect of their relationship: like Clarence, she’s supposed to save her charge by convincing him of his worth: one oddly long and discomforting scene has her telling Andre, “I look at your body battered by lack of love and trust,” as Andre faces a bathroom mirror. He cringes and worries, unable to do her bidding. At long last, tears in his eyes, he tells himself, “Je t’aime.”
Such solicitation of self-love isn’t Angela’s only trick. Because she’s the ideal sexual object, she offers another, very familiar sort of ego boost for self-doubting Andre. For all his swaggering, he needs to find himself in her. Angela observes that Andre’s efforts to perform a conventional masculinity only get him into trouble (and certainly, all his lying and posturing look more silly than imposing). But the fact that she can play all gendered and essentially all sexed roles to the hilt doesn’t exactly leave him room to fashion an alternative.
Angela’s dominance, however, is deceptive. She’s in place to serve her man, to fall for him in spite of all her many other options (she’s been an angel for hundreds of years, apparently, but this is the moment when she feels torn), to commit herself to his story. As Andre asserts, “I can see it all, thanks to her.” It is, in the end, about what he sees and comes to know. He may still be lying all day long. Or he may believe what he says. Either way, she’s the occasion for his revelation.
Posted by peter at June 25, 2007
Luc Besson - 2005
Sony Pictures Classics 35mm Film
Luc Besson's 2005 fantasy is getting a belated theatrical release in the U.S., paving the way for the inevitable DVD. The film was Besson's return to directing, following the box office failure of his version of the Joan of Arc Story. During the six years, Besson wrote and produced a significant number of films, most notably the Taxi and Transporter series. Angel-A, pronounced like the name of the angel of the film, Angela, is a trifle in comparison with Besson's previous films like Leon or Nikita. What it has going for it is some beautiful black and white, wide screen imagery, a disorienting tourist's eye view of Paris and some of its landmarks. Besson even incorporates bits of other angel movies into his story, notably It's A Wonderful Life with its angels mythology and Wings of Desire with its angels and architecture.
IMAGE: angela-a 1.jpg
The short, swarthy Andre plans to jump into the Seine, unable to pay off the two different gangsters he owes money. The tall, blonde and beautiful Angela is also on the bridge, and jumps first. Andre saves her, and the two argue about whether life is worth living. Angela acts as Andre's angel, initially in the symbolic sense, gradually revealing her true identity.
Unlike so many of Besson's films that he has either directed himself, or had others direct from his screenplays, Angel-A is dialogue heavy. The banter is the kind that is reminiscent of the great screwball comedies. Maybe something got lost in the translation to subtitles, as the dialogue is less engaging than what is found in the talk heavy movies of someone like Eric Rohmer. There are some funny exchanges between Andre and Angela, but there is not enough of the action that usually characterizes Besson's films. I even missed the silly antics of the Besson written and produced Taxi (the original, not the wretched remake with Jimmy Fallon).
While there are a few chuckles from the contrasting heights of the six foot Rie Rassmussen with the much shorter Andre, the joke wears wears thin quickly. Besson, whose previous films are noted for their odd couples, especially Leon's Jean Reno with Natalie Portman, is less inventive here. Looking back at Besson's films, they are often about two outsiders, a male and female, who in some way attempt to save each other. As a screenwriter, Luc Besson has been extraordinarily prolific, and perhaps this may explain why Angel-A is less interesting than Besson's earlier films, made before his attention was spread to several simultaneous projects. Angel-A is a gorgeous film to watch, but often I would wish that Besson would return to his previous mode of more guns and less talk.
** Jim Emerson June 6, 2007
I almost forgot to write this review. "Angel-A" screened for critics on a Friday morning and by Monday I'd forgotten that I'd seen it. Good thing I took notes. You don't need to. If you have 91 minutes to spare, you can watch "Angel-A" and then just go ahead and forget about it on your own.
To describe an airy French romantic comedy like "Angel-A" as "forgettable" is not necessarily a pejorative. It's just a fact. The movie doesn't aspire to be anything but a lightweight pastiche that rehashes your memories of other, better movies. In this case, that means a gloss on "Wings of Desire," "Splash" and "It's a Wonderful Life," with fleeting, gratuitous allusions to "Forrest Gump" and "Pulp Fiction" tossed in for reasons you're probably not supposed to think about too much.
"Angel-A," as the title suggests, is an angel-out-of-water movie -- photographed in black and white, as befits its Parisian setting. Paris is a city of muted daytime colors; even its sunlight is tinged with gray, an effect cinematographer Thierry Arbogast captures beautifully in a cruise down the Seine that feels more like Paris than Paris, in that way that movies can sometimes distill the essence of a place. The film's one memorable visual involves a winged creature suspended in the air above the river, and its beauty comes mainly from it being in back and white. Color would have made it too literal, if you can use that word to describe an image.
The primary character in "Angel-A" is Paris itself, but the movie also features a swarthy little Moroccan guy with perpetual stubble named Andre (popular French comedic actor Jamel Debbouze, of "Amelie" and "Days of Glory") and a tall blond drink of water named Angela (Danish actress Rie Rasmussen from "Femme Fatale"). Andre has a gambling problem -- the alcoholism and drug addiction of the '00s -- and is about to throw himself off a not-terribly-formidable bridge into the Seine when he notices the not-so-angelic skinny platinum Amazon about to do the same thing -- as if to upstage him. They argue, he saves her (or she saves him) and they make it their respective missions to cure each other's personality flaws and self-esteem issues. And his debt problems largely caused by his obsession with his time consuming carpet business in the Manhattan district of Paris - rug cleaning Manhattan apartments. The business is actually booming, but he keeps losing money by making bad decisions - buying too much heavy equipment, hiring employees who turn out to be slackers, getting parking tickets repeatedly, accidently damaging valuable carpets, and generally poor planning. Plus the gambling, plus the new relationship. It's clearly headed for a fall.
She's Mutt (5 feet 10 inches, fair and gangly), he's Jeff (5-5, dark and intense). She doesn't know who she is; he doesn't like who he is. Their character arcs intersect. Boy meet-cutes girl; boy alienates girl; boy gets (or grabs) girl. The End.
Although director Luc Besson ("Le Dernier Combat," "The Big Blue," "The Fifth Element") hasn't directed a film since the ill-fated "The Messenger: The Story Of Joan Of Arc" in 1999, he is a one-man movie factory, racking up more producer or executive producer credits over the last 10 years than Jerry Bruckheimer (his American counterpart) has amassed since 1972.
Like Bruckheimer's films, Besson's suggest balloons slathered in Vaseline: They are bloated, slick and empty and loud when they pop. Like the popcorn and syrup-infused fizzy-water they are designed to sell, these movies pass through your system without making much of an impression, though they can be vaguely pleasant in a not-particularly satisfying way while you are consuming them. And that's fine. But was your last $10 Diet Coke all that memorable for the price?
On the other hand, perhaps you want to not experience an interlude in your life that you won't have to remember. In which case, you can slip yourself a mickey. Or watch this.
TOMATOMETER CRITCS 44% | AUDIENCE 74%
REVIEWS from AUDIENCE
Harry W * December 5, 2016
Being Luc Besson?s foray away from genre filmmaking back towards a more character-oriented film, Angel-A sounded like a potentially stylish piece of world cinema.
It would appear that in the many years since Leon: The Professional (1994), Luc Besson has forgotten how to direct a feature with any actual characters whatsoever. Seeing as this is his first film as a director since The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999), his continued trend of insufficient director reminds us how much his better days are behind him.
The problem with Angel-A being a character piece is the fact that it doesn't actually have any characters to come with it. Throughout the film we gather nothing about the protegonist's story, leaving his past completely enigmatic. The elusive nature of the character is maintained over the course of the story as we gather an understanding of his identity based on how he interacts with the titular character Angel-A rather than who he is. But this isn't interesting in the slightest. Seriously, not at all. The story in Angel-A centres around two shallow characters who have nothing interesting to say or do as we see a strange bond develop between them. It's clear that much of the film has been influenced by the brilliance of Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995) which was also about two strangers who learned everything they needed to about each other during a brief chance encounter in a French setting. But while Richard Linklater found brilliance in a film which essentially had no plot and just characters, Luc Besson forsakes both. The man is recognised for his tendency to steal themes from Hollywood films to the point that he was recently sued for copying the plot of Escape from New York (1981) in his far lesser action thriller Lockout (2012), and Angel-A depicts him doing the exact same thing with a drama. This doesn't make any sense because the director has rarely made anything successful in terms of genuine character drama. While Leon: The Professional (1994) remains nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece, a large asset to the film's success was its concept on top of its characters. The director is a man who specialised in concepts, and even when he made non-genre specific films such as Subway (1985) and Le Grand Bleu (1988). With Angel-A, there is almost no concept. For some reason there is a fantasy element as an afterthought which feels heavily plagiarised from Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987) yet ultimately couldn't have less to do with the plot and just doesn't make sense. In a film which is about literally nothing, the fantasy aspect of the story has nothing to do with the rest of it. So by the end of the film, it simply feels like audiences have sat through an overly long slideshow of pretty pictures which seems to pretend as if it has a story.
Angel-A is the kind of film which takes the director back to his early days in popularising the cinema du look movement. This movement came into play as a new wave of French cinema which was focused mixing themes from high and low class films as the backdrop to a dominant focus on visual brilliance. While this was progressive back in its heyday, now it's just a tiring chore to sit through again. Luc Besson's directorial debut was a black-and-white silent film called Le Dernier Combat (1983), a popular film to which critic Dave Kehr called the absence of dialogue "an effective alibi for a technically proficient filmmaker who really has nothing to say." In Angel-A, we can see this all over again without the same spectacle of a genre film to hide it. There's only so visual you can get when making a romantic drama, and Angel-A hits the limit with it. The black-and-white colour palette gives the film a soothing feeling while the cinematography is absolutely beautifully executed, but the material that all this captures is far from sufficient. This is not the kind of film that Luc Besson is the appropriate director to make because his specialisation is in being a genre filmmaker rather than the creator on intricate drama. The genre in Angel-A fails to establish itself because it's an offbeat romantic drama with inconsistent elements of fantasy and comedy. While the film is pretty and some moments are visually pleasing, it doesn't entertain in any of the generic responsibilities that it takes on. The dialogue is so dull that I cannot actually remember a single thing that was said in the films and don't care enough to try while the entire relationship between the two central characters is too melodramatic to effectively elicit any laughs. And like I said, the fantasy element is just too arbitrary for its own good. The film may only be 90 minutes long, but any feature length film where nothing happens and there is no gimmicks clever enough to distract audiences from its lack of script does not have the right to exist as a film. Viewers with a low standard for storytelling may appreciate the visual style, but audiences who know exactly what Luc Besson is worst at will get to experience it in a lifeless dramatic form rather than in any overblown format where action scenes and visual effects are enough to disguise it all. Some audiences may appreciate his ambition to step back from creating an overblown spectacle
for once and focus on the simpler aspects of a film, but the issue is that he brings the same errors he has applied to every overblown one-dimension action thriller he has spawned and transfers them into a small scale character drama. The result is a suggestion that he is not the kind of man who can actually work on a low budget given how small the costs were for Angel-A. But since his big budget films aren't always that much better, he just can't catch a break either way.
Angel-A carries poetic cinematography, but it also has the same one-dimensional characters and lack of a story from Luc Besson's lesser films without enough of a spectacle to hide it.
Sheridan P **** December 18, 2015
Very sweet and romantical with a nice little moral to the story :) +++
Javier C ***** October 18, 2015
La película me gusta y mas que la dirige Luc Beson, que a veces va de lo muy malo a lo bueno, me parece un argumento interesante y me gusto mucho, no se si este sentido del humor agrade a todos+++
Kevin B ***** June 5, 2015
An overlooked gem from Luc Besson+++
Oscar T **** March 20, 2015
París nunca se había visto tan bonito a blanco y negro. +++
Moonshadow **** April 4, 2014
Sweetly captivating, very original. +++
Matty Stanfield *½ January 2, 2014
Not as horrible as it could have been, but far from good. +++
James P ****½ December 29, 2013
A beautiful looking and charming romantic comedy that is almost infinitely watchable, a welcome return for director, Luc Besson. +++
Alberto G **½ November 6, 2013
Luc Besson is many great things. A storyteller, a man with great visuals, a stylish action sequences director and a person with a great sense of music.
While this movie was visually striking, it tried to hard to turn from a redemption story, to a love story in the last 30 minutes of the film. For me that was the biggest flaw. +++
Elgan D *** September 16, 2013
Stylishly shot and initially an interesting premise the picture loses it's way in the second half as a more romantic angle is introduced. +++
Jouni K **** August 29, 2013
Good but quite typical french movie. +++
Orlok W ***½August 6, 2013
Just about everything a movie can do..and some more,maybe--Respire - Regarde - Voilà!! +++
martincday martincday **** August 1, 2013
If you are in the mood for something with a bit of style and slightly quirky Angela-A is a class act. Not exactly a classic but a little gem. +++
GabrielKnight **½June 30, 2013
This artsy fairy tale is quite ambitions, featuring gorgeous B&W cinematography. Unfortunately it falls way short of what it attempted too be. I'm not sure if it was the lack of real chemistry between the leads, or the protagonist not particularly likable to really care for, but I was utterly unconvinced. +++
Blake B March 20, 2013
i like besson usually, but he's capable of shit so who knows+++
Davide A *** ½ March 8, 2013
Tematiche trattate interessanti. Buona recitazione ma finale deludente. +++
Daniel G **February 26, 2013
I usually don't enjoy the pretentiousness of black and white french movies, but Angel-A is an ok film. Rie Rasmussen is actually a pretty good actress and the story has that one emotional moment that kinda got me. But the ending fell flat. I just didn't bought it. +++
Rene D **** February 22, 2013
Paris looks beautiful! I found the message touching+++
Tebor7471 January 22, 2013
Luc Besson!? HELL YEAH!!!
Joshua L **½January 17, 2013+++
It's shot in black and white so it must be art. Right?