Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Angel Eyes, Am I Deceived Or Did You Sigh?

I don't know if it counts as geeky or not, but I feel a need to let you know about Luc Bessons late 2005 romantic noir fantasy Angel-A. I completely forgot I had thrown this on my Netflix queue, and in truth was expecting the 3rd disc in the anime series Black Lagoon when I tore open the bright red envelope.

This was definitely a case of getting a book for it's cover since I had seen the DVD box at a Blockbuster and the image had me so intrigued that I had to see it not even really knowing what it was about.

Released here in 2007, Angel-A is the story of a down on his luck, in debt Arab American (green card) low rent criminal named Andre played by Jamel Debbouze. After some unsuccessful attempts at extending his debt deadlines, and unable to even get himself arrested, Andre decides to end his life by jumping off a bridge into the river Seine.
He meets Angela played by the beautiful Rie Rasmussen who apparently has the same idea and jumps first. Andre, of course jumps in to save her, but who's really doing the saving?

In researching this film I couldn't believe the effect Luc Bessons work has on people. there doesn't seem to be a middle ground, he's either hated or loved. Someone had even said that The Professional was his litmus test for personal relations. "If you like that movie, I can't even talk to you." It's all a bit extreme, I have a friend who doesn't like Fifth Element, but I'm not gonna leave a burning bag of dog poop at his door. Now if he hated Dawn of the Dead.......well that's just stupid (wink).

I have to wonder, am I not hipster enough to hate Luc Bessons work? Does French cinema need to be 3 hours long and incomprehensible to be good? Is Luc Besson too easily translated to an American audience (The Professional, Nikita, Fifth Element, Subway) to be considered a true French artist. Opinions of his work are very polarized.

Polarized is a good way to describe Angel-A as well. Everything in this film is contrasted. Andre is short and Angela is tall. He is dark, she is light. The film itself is in black and white with amazing cinematography by Thierry Arbogast. Paris itself becomes a character in the film and the movie takes us to some amazing locales.
This isn't a heavy movie. Definitely not as heavy as "It's a Wonderful Life" that it's clearly influenced by. You don't have to watch it with a box of tissues by your side in case a fly gets in your eye. There is nothing too deep in the dialogue or the characterization. Some may see it as too simple but once the players start exhibiting shades of gray it would throw the whole light/dark balance off. Some pop psychology platitudes rear their ugly heads, but again, I think it works here.

Maybe I just identify too much with Andre, and maybe, just maybe here is where Angel-A ties into my geek lifestyle. Andre sees himself as a loser, unable to fit in and inept at all he does. Who hasn't felt like that? Upon meeting Angela he tell her when he looks in the mirror he sees shit. In one of the movies more touching moments she forces him to look at himself in the mirror and asks him what he sees. I don't know. He replies. See, your making progress already, you don't see shit. Is her comeback.

Angel-A is one of those rare romantic fantasies you can watch with a significant other and not feel you've been roped into a "chick film". Andres treatment of Angela can be crass at times but instead of condemning him for it, I'm taking cultural differences in account. Besides, if I had a beautiful leggy blonde following me around wanting to do nothing but help me, you can bet your butt I would find a way to screw that up ASAP!
Right ladies?

So if you're looking for a movie that's easy on the eyes, mind and heart (with a killer soundtrack) you may want to check out Angel-A.

By the way, if you do see this movie and wonder if you missed something because Andre always has his right hand in his pocket. Wonder no more. Jamel Debbouze lost his right hand at the age of 15. His signature move is to keep the stump hidden.

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