Sunday, March 30, 2008

Film Club, one day early: Angel A

This coming week, yours truly is back on stupid o'clock early shifts. This means emerging from the under the duvet at 03:45 each morning until Friday, so Film Club, which inevitably means a fairly late evening, had to be brought forward by a day.

The actual viewing was delayed slightly on the night by the announcement of Dozybean and YarMatt's new arrival, but nevertheless we carried on and watched Luc Besson's 2005 twisted romantic comedy "Angel A". Besson both wrote and directed, so it's very much his baby; his first for six years. Besson can sometimes be a bit up himself directorially, but has also put out some great work (Leon with Jean Reno, for example), which now includes this little masterpiece about a failed con artist and "six foot slut" who claims to be an angel.

I've just finished looking through the DVD again to get a couple of stills for this posting (yes, I know it's not really allowed by copyright...) and I think it's even better than I thought on first viewing.

Sumptuously shot in monochrome, the film gives its Parisian locations a hauntingly beautiful look. It's a great city anyway, but Besson manages to capture a genuine depth in his imagery.
The narrative is an age old and time honoured story of an odd-couple thrown together and finding redemption through their relationship and it's none the worse for that. The story is told with a perfect sense of pacing and there are enough new and bold twists to keep the audience hooked. It helps that there are quite a few very funny moments as the film's anti-hero, Andre, played with great aplomb by Jamel Debbouze, tries to extricate himself from a myriad bad business deals and debts with the help of his new found partner Angel-A (the immensely tall and drop-dead gorgeous Rie Rasmussen).
This is the sort of film that Hollywood simply can't do; the system there would almost undoubtedly produce a mushy, slushy piece of schmalz. Here the great French cinema tradition keeps the film light and amusing. This is not to say that there aren't moments when a little dampening around the eyes isn't to be expected, it's just that Besson holds a firm grip on the whole project and never allows it to slip into infantile sentimentalism. The themes are explored in an adult manner and the film is overtly sexual (although never explicit) so it's probably best not to watch it with smaller people about.

We say "bravo", Monsieur Besson - a smashing film. It's not an earth-shattering examination of anything; to look for that would be to entirely miss the point. It is, however, arguably the best rom-com I've come across. Sleepless in Seattle? What's that?

No comments: