Good heavens! Don’t you just love a black and white movie? You know it’s going to be as classy as an espresso. There will be none of that silly froth or chocolate or little bits of marshmallow. It’s probably going to deal with the big issues in life, and everyone will be wearing sharp suits, and the acting will be marvellous. You suspect the old-fashioned sensibilities and pacing will be a touch hard to relate to, and that in itself makes you wish to rise to the challenge and prove yourself worthy. Watching a black and white film is like going to Film Church: The hour or so in the pew is an acquired taste, but you come out feeling a better person than the one that went in.

Though it hit the cinemas in 2005 rather than 1955, Angel-A is a black and white film. The title even makes you suspect it will have metaphysical things like angels in it (here’s a clue: It does) and will therefore be rather deep (here’s a clue: It isn’t). Angel-A is your Film Church. Your espresso. You have eschewed the silly things in life like marshmallows and sin, and this film has helped make it happen. Or so you think… Until a few minutes past the opening credits.

Angel-A film by Luc Besson

Moroccan-American Andre (proud possessor of a green card) isn’t doing too well in Paris. He is 40,000 Euros in debt. A failed business venture in Argentina is to blame – self-piteous Andre is, after all, not one to blame himself. Some underworld olive moguls have given Andre a fiercely tight deadline in which to raise the money. As Andre sees it, his only option is to throw himself into the Seine. Yes, Andre! This is the only way to deal with a failed Argentinian olive-related venture! He gets as far as standing on the parapet of the bridge, and as he braces himself to leap he is beaten to the pip by a statuesque beauty who is so marvellously tall you have to stretch your eyes to fit the whole of her in; Instead of taking his own life, he saves hers.

This mysterious woman – her name is Angel-A, would you ever have guessed – insists she now owes Andre a life debt, and that she will do whatever it takes to turn his life around. Even if the results are rather quirky and unconventional and fittingly bohemian (well, it is set in Paris). She is wonderfully bossy and beautiful and passionate about her mission – and spectacularly tall, as mentioned – so who is Andre to say no? Well, he does say no, as it transpires. He’s terribly petulant. Fortunately, our angelic beauty has none of it and sets to work, using all her wiles to transform Andre from a wretched man to a redeemed man who smiles occasionally.

Angel-A film by Luc Besson

Angel-A film by Luc Besson

Very soon it becomes apparent that Angel-A might not be all she seems. Mais non! She is a fallen angel with no memory of her past life and a need to help others. Sadly, grumpy little Andre doesn’t need a miracle; he needs to be locked in a room with Supernanny and Alan Sugar.

Angel-A is undaunted; she drags Andre round the seediest aspects of his life, righting wrongs with womanly wiles and angelic can-do, with life-solving techniques that range from fisticuffs to stealing and prostitution (or is it?). It’s impossible not to like the actors as they make sense of this prettily empty frippery. Andre (Jamel Debbouze) has a face that is beauteously hangdog, and his incessant moaning rings warm and true. Gorgeous Nordic giantess Angela (Rie Rasmussen) is mobile and passionate onscreen. It’s physically quite impossible to take your eyes off her as she swans around Paris acting as Andre’s heavenly therapist.

Angel-A is, for all its monochromatic sophistication and high-faluting allegory, obvious. Luc Besson could do better, and has. If you expect little in the way of surprises or lasting value, this beautifully-shot oddball love story between two quirky and engaging leads will leave you entertained. Be warned, though; This is a nice trip down to a posh cafe for a morning croissant, not an uplifting pilgramage to Film Church.

Angel-A sets out to be an espresso but ends up as a cappucino, half-shot, heavy on the milk. Pretty froth; no more.

Angel-A: If I give you my life, would you know what to do with it?
Andre: If you give a man a carrot, he’ll know what to do with it.

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