When you were watching It’s a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time at home, did you ever wonder how the story would change if the angel Clarence was a tall leggy blonde FEMALE? . . . I didn’t think so; me neither.
But, that’s a pretty good encapsulated view of the movie Angel-A. It’s a French film that I watched with English subtitles. The film was done in a crisp, clear black and white color scheme. Let me tell you, Paris never looked better.
The film was directed by Luc Besson, also known as writer of the futuristic sci-fi opera, The Fifth Element and action-driven frenzied films, Transporter and Taken. There was something very familiar about our heroine, Angel, and that’s because she is, in features and temperament, almost identical to Element‘s Leeloo (Milla Jovavovich).
Unlike George Bailey in Wonderful Life, our main character Andre is not a good guy who has helped out his friends in ways he doesn’t understand. Andre is a swindler. He tells people he is Middle Eastern, an American citizen, and a resident of France. Whether that’s true or just another way to combat racism or cultural bias, I never discovered. He borrows money, loses it on crazy spending or gambling, and then lies his way out of paying back his debts. Every time he is told he needs to pay, he has a grand story of why he can’t at the moment, but how he is going to get the money soon, etc. etc. It’s hard to tell if the people he is lying to really believe he is going to pay up or if they just don’t have to heart to hurt this petite fellow, who, despite his lying, cowardly ways, is quite charming and personable. Maybe they enjoy hearing what excuse he will come up with.
One evening, his debts pile up, and he is sure that this time, someone is going to kill him. He decides to end his life by jumping off a bridge. But just has he prepares to jump, he looks over and sees a goddess. Angel is over six feet tall with platinum blonde hair, the face of an angel, long legs up to her ears, and the perfect figure. Angel jumps off the bridge, and Andre decides to save her. He can’t understand why someone like her would want to kill herself. “You can have anything,” he tells her.
The two make a ridiculous pair. Angel towers over Andre by a good foot at least. And while Andre is anxious, jittery, and sneaky, Angel is calm, cool, and easygoing. Now when Angel is with Andre, she handles the negotiations and the doors seem wide open for coming to compromises with his debtees. Angel tells Andre she will do whatever he asks of her. Andre wants Angel to help him earn the money to pay back his debts and she readily agrees. The two walk around the city, talking and coming up with ways to earn money.
Of course, Angel ends up being just as her name implies. But she isn’t what you’d expect. For one thing, she like to chain smoke (You can’t do it there, she tells him). She also isn’t opposed to using her charms on men to get them to do as she wants.
This film was entertaining and well done. There are some revealing dialogues between Angel and Andre that seem to speak to why people do ugly things, such as lie, steal, etc. Angel tells Andre that if he would just tell the truth, he wouldn’t get himself into half the trouble he does. When you are “good” people have to react to you in a different way. They old ways won’t work. The point was well made, however, it played itself out in Andre’s personality a little too abruptly.
The cinematography is quite well done. The director made good use of jump cuts in the “walking around the city” scenes at the beginning. In this scene, Andre walks around Paris at night and his motions stay consistent, but the background keeps changing.
I thought Angel-A was a good movie choice. It is definitely a thinking man’s movie. There isn’t a lot of action. It’s mostly dialogue and emoting, with a burst of action a the end. Our two main characters are quite charming. I recalled the easy camaraderie between Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy in Before Sunrise. Just add a dose of magical realism, and you’ve got a nice formula.
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