Had this on the old watchlist for a long time. Ten years to be specific! As a Besson fan I knew I had to get there eventually and here we are. Now, its not the greatest film ever made, nor is it close to being Besson’s best but it is unmistakably a Luc Besson film. Angel-A fees like another chapter in a grand collection of stories that show us Besson’s Paris. In this film more than the others, it feels like a fairy tale dream world. It’s more of a visual poem than the thrilling cinema Besson is usually renowned for but it’s interesting to see him operate in an unexpected key.
Unfolding almost predominately at night in grand locations rendered in luxurious monochrome, the in-your-face beauty of the film is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it looks like a painting, other times it looks like an extended Dior perfume ad. Besson has always had a light touch and I find this refreshing in a climate of movies where everything is often pitched to the bleakest possible setting. Angel-A is a magical love story and rarely tries to be anything else.
The central pair of Jamel Debbouze and striking model Rie Rasmussen actually work really well together. The contrived nature of their relationship gets tedious in parts and the way the film constantly looks at Rasmussen with swooning, puppy-dog eyes also gets tiresome but I stayed with it. I enjoyed their dynamic and the film’s floaty, loved up atmosphere more or less sustains interest for most of the run time. Most.
When all is said and done though, Angel-A remains a minor film mainly because there isn’t enough meat on the bone. It felt overlong to me and stretched too thinly. I get the sense it could have worked better as a 20 minute short film (or a five minute Dior perfume ad…) but I’m happy to finally fill in this blank of Besson’s filmography. He’s very hit and miss but he has an eclectic and entertaining body of work behind him at this point. Angel-A might not have aged well or even gained any extra relevance in the ten years since it’s release but as a poor-man’s genre-tinged take on Wings of Desire, it’s not too bad.