Angel-A – this week’s screening at the San Francisco Alliance Française movie night – is a rather whimsical, romantic tale about a small-time swindler, André, and an angel who comes down to earth to save him from himself.
Starring Jamel Debbouze – who also appeared in Amélie – and Rie Rasmussen – Danish actress, film director, writer, model and photographer – Angel-A is written and directed by Luc Besson who’s been involved in the film industry as a screenwriter, producer, director – or all three – since 1981. Known for the highly visual style of his productions, Besson has been instrumental in the creation of over 50 films, included in which are Subway (1985), Le Grand Bleu (1988) – Academy Award-winner at the 1989 National Academy of Cinéma in France – and La Femme Nikita (1990) – all considered to be representative of the style known as the Cinéma du look movement.
Among Besson’s many nominations and awards, he lists that of Best Director for The Fifth Element (1997) at the César Awards in 1998, the year in which he also won a Lumière Award for Best Director. He won two more Lumière Awards – Best Film and Best Director – in 1999, for Joan of Arc. He won the Grand Prix Special des Amérique at the Montréal World Film Festival in 2002 for ‘his exceptional contribution to the cinematographic art’, his sci-fi thriller Lucy (2014) is regarded as France’s biggest export success, and he also produced the promotional film used for the Paris bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics. And that’s just a small snapshot of his achievements.
In Angel-A – which dates from 2005 – André is on the run in Paris from all the criminal gangs to whom he owes money. In a fit of desperation, he decides to end it all by throwing himself from one of the bridges on the Seine. As he tries to make up his mind about jumping, he notices a statuesque blonde who has the same thing in mind, and when she jumps into the water, he dives in to save her. As things turn out, she is no ordinary girl, but an angel sent to help André sort out his difficulties.
The two of them spend a night in Paris, wandering the streets, dropping into clubs and cafés, and generally doing the sort of things you’d expect a couple to do on a summer night in the City of Light – during which she finds some questionable ways of earning money to help André settle his debts.
Filmed in black and white, Angel-A would seem to be as much a love letter to the city of Paris as a film about these two unusual characters, critics pointing to the exquisite camera work by cinematographer Thierry Arbogast, who won the 1998 César Award for Best Cinematography for Besson’s The Fifth Element.
Angel-A, in French with English sub-titles, is rated R (for language and some sexual content) and screens at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, at 7.00 pm on Tuesday February 23rd. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.