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 (THE INNER LIFE OF MARTIN FROST which opened the 2007 edition of NEW 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 performances. ANGEL-A also includes homages to WINGS OF DESIRE and ANGELS IN AMERICA (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.