Angel-AFrance, 2005

Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Rie Rasmussen, Jamel Debbouze
IMDB: 6.9

This is one of those films that can take a while to get around to watching. It's French, it's black and white, it's got a small cast, it's talky, it's a feel-good love story. For me, that's flying quite a few red flags already. Not that I have anything against any of those types ... but it just sounds a little, well ... uninteresting. But don't stop reading yet ... this generalisation certainly gives the wrong impression.

The film was nothing at all like I expected.

We meet Andre, a small-time hustler living in Paris, at a particularly low time in his life. With large debts racked up to underworld figures who have run out of patience, he's likely to come to a sticky end very shortly. With no money, or even the possibility of getting any, it seems he has truly run out of options.

It's while he is standing on a bridge contemplating suicide that he notices another jumper about to do the same - a gorgeous blonde in a short black cocktail dress. Being the nice guy that he is, he unhesitatingly saves her from killing herself. And this is how he meets Angela, who promptly decides that seeing as she owes him her life, she now belongs to him.

Did I mention yet that this film is a fantasy?

Boy did he luck in. It soon becomes apparent that Angela's mission is to turn his life around, and she sets about helping to relieve him of his debts. Remember how I mentioned this was ostensibly a feel-good love story? Well that might lead you to believe this is some kind of weepy romcom, but here's the twist. Her method of raising the cash is to head to a bar and shag all comers for 1000 euros a pop. So you can see how this film doesn't exactly conform to expectations.

The stunning cinematography around picturesque Paris, combined with the decision to film in black and white lends the film an artistic and classy aesthetic, however the delivery is anything but pretentious. Instead director Luc Besson has delivered a mature and sexy comedy/fantasy that is enjoyable from start to finish.

If I had to draw comparisons, I'd describe it as a mix between the fantasy of Bedazzled combined with the acting and humour of Amelie. Of course this is Luc Besson we're talking about (Fifth Element, Leon, Nikita) , so you know you're in good hands. He has teamed up with long-time collaborator, cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, which ensures that the visuals are spectacular.

I won't give away anything more about the plot - yes its feel-good and uplifting - it even has a positive message to take away. For those who might be put off by such a description, don't be. This is a mature, intelligent and sexy film that will appeal to males and females alike.

Special mention must be given to the two leads, the nordic goddess Rie Rasmussen and the dimunitive arabic hustler played by Jamel Debbouze. Between them they account for 95% of the screentime, and they both turn in great performances. Rasmussen manages to be both endearing and sassy, and the buzz about her incredibly long legs in this movie is entirely justified.

I have one caveat for those thinking of checking this movie out. This is a dialogue-driven movie ... so if you don't understand French you're probably going to need to hit the pause button from time to time to keep up with the subtitles. I fully realise that for many people this will be too much hassle, but you'd be missing out if you let this put you off.

In summary, this was truly an enjoyable film and comes highly recommended.

Rating: 8/10


Remember the standout scene from Femme Fatale(2002) where Rebecca Romijin-Stamos seduces a gorgeous model in a toilet stall, removing her diamond encrusted bustier and replacing it with a fake one? Well, the model concerned was in fact Rie Rasmussen in her first on-screen role. I wonder, does Rie have a fetish for bathroom-stall sex or is it just the most specific and unlikely typecasting ever?


"The only time I worked for Victoria Secret is because I, like everybody else, wanted to fuck a supermodel. And I did"
- Rie Rasmussen, a noted bi-sexual and apparently quite the straight-talker!

To read more about Rie, who seems to be an all-round remarkable woman, read this interesting interview at the New York Observer.



Ventilation Shaft said...

Awesome review!

I stumbled upon this a couple of months ago, the cover totally drew me in. But then I read "romance" and "drama" and "French", and as you've said it: too many red flags, indeed. I gave to the generalization and dismissed the flick.

Thank you for the review because now I'll definitely check it out.

Ventilation Shaft said...

Just watched it yesterday and loved it! I'm usually the first to run from romance drama (especially French) but I enjoyed "Angel-A" until the end.

A really great little obscure gem.

LuckyWanderBoy said...

I enjoyed this movie. Great actor!


Hey glad you liked it VS - and thanks for following up with your thoughts.

Its always a win for me if my review helps someone discover a hidden gem.

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