Angel-A (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Luc Besson
viewed: 12/14/07

You know me, that is, if you read this site with any frequency.  Whether you do know me or not, though this system works somewhat like film reviews, it’s really not constrained to those requirements.  Just so, it’s not restrained to any academic requirements, reporting requirements, research or accuracy requirements.  It’s a diary.  It’s a confessional…without all that much significant confessed.  My confessions are more about why I will tolerate or even be drawn to watch movies such as Angel-A or the work of Luc Besson, or the work of Lindsay Lohan.  Or whatever other films are part of the highbrow “cinema” pantheon or canon.

Sometimes, I think I am hamstrung by writing about the things that interest me.  I notice that the films that get the most (meager still sincerely but most for me) hits are usually the latest releases with the most notability.  I mean, if I was interested in having more readers (which I am), I would dedicate myself more to purely new releases in the theater and on DVD and would only include the occasional “classic” when it got it’s latest incarnation on Criterion or something.

The fact is that this diary demonstrates the breadth and perhaps lack of depth of my personal relationship with cinema.  On a film-by-film basis.  But still, if one was to glance over my list of movies that I have seen this year, the variance would be fairly considerable.  It’s such a personal list that I think very few will ever appreciate it the way that I do it.  But…now, moving toward my 6th year, I guess I’m not about to change anything here.

Which brings us to why I even rented Angel-A.  Luc Besson once made good movies.  That ended over a decade ago, and as I noted quite blatantly in my comment on Arthur and the Invisibles (2006), earlier this year, he’s hit rock bottom.  So why then rent Angel-A?  God, if I knew that I probably would understand why I watched all those Lindsay Lohan movies.

Angel-A is sort of like Besson’s stab at a pop/comedy version of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987)…without the depth or criticality.  The story of a down-and-out Morrocan/Frenchman, in debt to his eyeballs, hunted by mobsters, comic and sensitive but also a pathological liar, who, about to leap to his death meets a gorgeous slumming angel also jumping into the Seine.  His rescue of her begins her rescue of him, and if the title didn’t give you enough hints, this slumming angel turns out to be a slumming Angel, with wings and stuff.

The comedy is hammy, but visually it’s striking.  Jamel Debbouze, short, unshaven, and shabby but with a genuine charm is a stunning contrast to the bleach-blond, six-foot, supermodel of an angel, Rie Rasmussen.  And the contrast of their figures, their banter and style is on constant show against the background of modern Paris, shot in a gorgeous black-and-white pallette that shows that something was well-executed in this film.  The bridges, the towers, the buildings, the lights, all are as beguiling as they were in Amélie (2001).

For what charms the film has, and it has some, it’s pathetically lacking in emotional, psychological, even creative depth.  For some reason, it struck me that this film could have been interesting if directed by someone with a more perverse eye.  It also continues with Besson’s childish knock-out young women who radiate goodness, toughness, and spirituality, who cure the small, childish men, who, though good-at-heart, need saving.  It’s an insipid theme that one can follow through his films, and while at first there was something charming there (some actual electric thing could happen in the film), it’s not just half-assed balderdash.

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