© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

I have no idea whether or not Luc Besson read
Paul Auster's novel
The Book of Illusions, but
there is more than a passing similarity to the
"lost" movie that Auster describes in his fiction
picture (
which opened the 2007 edition of
DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS). Maybe it's just
serendipity or coincidence, but since I saw both
movies so close together, I couldn't help but be
struck by their similarities and differences.
Auster's version falls flat on screen whereas
Besson's soars.

The movie opens on narrator André (Jamel
Debbouze). He's a quirky fellow, speaking in
French yet he considers himself an American,
having settled in the United States with a green
card. He's back in his homeland on business and
runs into some goons who remind him of a debt.
We next see André haning off the Eiffel Tower
as gangster Franck (Gilbert Melki) reminds him
of just how much he owes. At his wit's end, he
heads for one of the many bridges in Paris
intent on throwing himself into the Seine. Just
as he's getting ready to jump, though, he
notices a very tall blonde (Rie Rasmussen) who
also is preparing to commit suicide. As it turns
out, she is heaven-sent -- literally, since she is
the title character
ANGEL-A. Glomming onto
André, she is there to precipitate some changes
in his life and to make him realize his potential.

Besson's film has some plot holes (what movie
about the supernatural doesn't?) but there's
something sweet and amusing about the
interplay between Debbouze and Rasmussen
that works. There's the sight gag of this lithe,
light-haired woman towering over this compact,
dark man. The difference is also heightened by
the use of black and white by the brilliant
cinematographer Thierry Arbogast; the
camerawork adds a dimension to the muted
romance between the mortal and the heavenly
creature and makes the city of Paris look
particularly glorious.

While ultimately there's a repetitive quality to
the film's dialogue (the couple appear to be
having the same arguments), there's still
something pleasant and enjoyable in the
ANGEL-A also includes homages
(both of which are far superior), but
that's okay too. Nothing wrong with borrowing
from the best.

Rating:                C+
MPAA Rating:        R for language and
                        some sexual content
Running time:      88 mins.
L to R: Rie Rasmussen as Angela and
Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics Inc
© 2006 CTB Film Company/Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc