Angel-A (Directors Suite) (2005)

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Released 23-Jan-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-The Making Of (26:52)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Making of the Music Video (13:59)
Music Video-Anja Garbarek - Can I Keep Him? (3:32)
Theatrical Trailer-UK Trailer
Theatrical Trailer- Directors Suite Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 87:06 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor
Europa Corp.
Madman Entertainment
Starring Jamel Debbouze
Rie Rasmussen
Gilbert Melki
Serge Riaboukine
Akim Chir
Eric Balliet
Loïc Pora
Venus Boone
Jérôme Guesdon
Michel Bellot
Michel Chesneau
Olivier Claverie
Solange Milhaud
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Anja Garbarek


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (256Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Luc Besson was one of the first directors I recognised as a young film enthusiast - Subway, Le Grand Bleu, Nikita and Léon still remain some of my personal favourite films, and when it was revealed Besson had directed a film which was to be released in Europe during Christmas 2005, I’m sure fans worldwide were filled with glee.

It’s a shame the film took years to reach Australian audiences but don’t let the delay in release deter you from Angel-A, which sees Besson return to his beloved Paris and his cinematic roots after his great International success with producing such films as the four Taxi films, The Transporter and it’s sequel, Yamakasi, Banlieue 13, Danny the Dog, Fanfan la tulipe, Ong-bak, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Quand j'étais chanteur and most recently Ne le dis à personne, Hitman and Taken.

Filmed secretly in the early hours of the morning on the streets of Paris, Angel-A is the story of André, a small-time criminal who is unable to repay his numerous debts to violent crime bosses around Paris. With the threat against his life growing, André hastily decides suicide is the only answer.

The role of André was specifically written for the renowned comedian and actor Jamel Debbouze who truly shines as the damaged André. André like archetype Besson characters before him will meet an opposing character who will irritate him, anger him, change him and love him.

That character is embodied in model, actress and short-film director Rie Rasmussen.

Rasmussen plays Angela, André’s polar opposite – she is tall, beautiful and confident, while he is short, self–loathing and emotionally damaged. Yet they both stand at Pont Alexandre III, intending to leap to their deaths by drowning in the Seine. In this moment André instinctively decides to save the beautiful stranger and what follows is Angela’s attempt to save his life.

Shot in black and white, recalling Besson’s first feature film Le Dernier Combat, Thierry Arbogast’s cinematography is remarkably beautiful – I have often revisited the film, simply to freeze-frame certain shots. Eric Serra’s presence in a Besson production is sadly missed but Anja Garbarek’s soulful and jazz inspired contribution to the film works incredibly well with the whimsical nature of the film.

Outside of France Angel-A unfortunately received negative reviews but in my personal opinion the film is an accomplishment for Besson. It is a bold, daring film and while there are resemblances to It’s a Wonderful Life and Der Himmel über Berlin, it is still a unique Besson film.

It is obvious Besson has tried to challenge himself with this production – shooting the film over a few weeks in August 2005 for a late December 2005 release date. Equally Rasmussen had to swiftly learn French, her third language, while Debbouze had to balance his natural charm and comedic talents with the melancholy and drama of his character. Debbouze should have received a César for his efforts but despite missing out on a nomination for Angel-A, he received a César for Best Actor alongside Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Bernard Blancan for the acclaimed Indigènes. He is truly one of France’s most exciting actors and comedic personalities alongside Gad Elmaleh, Danny Boon and Alain Chabat.

While some audiences may be disappointed (the conclusion of the film is often met with criticism) I embraced this film and regard it highly alongside Besson’s already grand filmography. Simply Angel-A is a must see for any fan of Besson and particularly if you enjoyed Les Amants du Pont-Neuf or La Fille sur le pont.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 16x9 enhanced 2.35:1 widescreen.

Over a dual layer DVD, the film has been encoded at the average bit-rate of 5.22 Mbps.

Unfortunately there is an apparent softness and blurriness throughout the transfer and as such shadow detail remains average – this may be a result of MPEG compression artefacts.

I have included a screen shot which demonstrates the softness and dimness of the R4 Madman transfer (top image) in comparison with the R2 Optimum transfer (bottom image).

Note the brighter image, difference in shadow and slightly better detail on the bridge on the image from the R2 transfer. Overall the differences are very mild but still perceivable on a larger display.

There were no issues with positive and negative film grain or telecine wobble.

The optional English subtitles appear in a white Arial font and are a close translation of the French and Spanish dialogue.

There are 16 chapter selections.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There are two audio options available - a French Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and a French Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

The French Dolby Digital 5.1 is very good in most respects.

The French and Spanish dialogue is clear and detailed without any distortion.

There are no obvious audio synchronisation issues.

The dialogue is mostly emitted from the front of the soundstage with occasional sound effects and music emitted from the rear speakers.

Overall the soundtrack is an encompassing experience with the subwoofer discreetly used.

There are a number of environments in the films such as the night clubs, bars and restaurants the characters visit, as well as the Paris streets in the day and night, and the centerpiece of the film - Pont Alexandre III and Norwegian pop chanteuse Anja Garbarek (daughter of contemporary jazz composer Jan Garbarek) carefully composed the music around these surroundings.

As mentioned, this is the first Besson production not to feature Eric Serra as composer. Besson has noted that it was Garbarek’s albums Balloon Mood and Smiling & Waving which inspired the script for Angel-A and his decision to return to directing. Songs from Garbarek’s earlier albums appear on the CD soundtrack, as well as songs composed specially for the motion picture.

The soundtrack is composed with loose arrangements which concentrate on the quirkier aspects of early scenes of the film, but as the plot develops, the soundtrack grows into sweeping orchestral romanticism with a hint of electronica. The soundtrack is very effective in creating the mood of the film and creates a wonderful backdrop to the on-screen odd-couple characters and Parisian visuals.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

The main menu features subtle animation of one of the many memorable shots in the film and is accompanied by a section of the score. The menu is well organised and allows the user to navigate through the content with ease.

The Making of the Film (26:52)

We follow Besson and the cast and crew around Paris as they shoot Angel-A covertly. This featurette also features interviews with Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen interspersed with behind the scenes footage. We briefly get to see Besson on-set with the actors and Thierry Arbogast.

This is a nice addition in lieu of a director's commentary, which is something Besson is yet to contribute to his film's DVD releases as he prefers traditional interviews over DVD commentaries.

The black and white featurette features optional player generated yellow Arial English subtitles which automatically accompany the featurette. (1.78:1 widescreen and 16x9 enhanced)

The Making of the Music Video (13:15)

Rather this extra should be titled Making the Music of Angel-A. This is a post-production featurette focusing on Anja Garbarek’s contribution to the film. Music Supervisor Jérôme Latour and Anja Garbarek are both interviewed and we also get to see Besson working with Garbarek.

Also we get a brief look at the making of Garbarek’s music video for ‘Can I Keep Him?’ and finally footage of Jamel Debbouze recording dialogue for ADR, in between jokes of course.

When English is spoken burnt-in French subtitles appear. When French is spoken optional player generated yellow Arial English subtitles automatically accompany the featurette. (1.78:1 widescreen and 16x9 enhanced)

The Music Video (3:32)

Presented in Full Frame this is the music video for Anja Garbarek’s Can I Keep Him?’ which was shot in the same locations featured in the film in black and white.

Theatrical Trailer (1:49)

The UK trailer for Angel-A is presented in 1:78 widescreen and is 16x9 enhanced.

Directors Suite Trailers

Following an anti-piracy warning the following trailers can be accessed:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The PAL R2 (France) Europa release features a French DTS 5.1 soundtrack, but there are no English subtitles available for the film or the extras

The extras remain the same on the R2 PAL (France) Europa release, R2 PAL (UK) Optimum release, R1 NTSC Sony Pictures release and R4 PAL Madman release.

The only difference is the R4 Madman release includes the Directors Suite Trailers.

For French speaking audiences the PAL R2 (France) Europa release is the winner.

Otherwise choose between the R2 PAL (UK) Optimum release, R1 NTSC Sony Pictures release and R4 PAL Madman release.

I personally favour the R2 PAL (UK) Optimum release due to the crisper picture quality.

Summary

With beautiful cinematography by Thierry Arbogast (who has worked with Besson since 1990’s Nikita) and featuring an outstanding performance from Jamel Debbouze, Angel-A is a wonderful achievement for Besson.

The film is a simple tale of one man’s search for redemption and one woman trying to find her purpose in life. Everyone deserves a second chance and hopefully Luc Besson’s Angel-A will find the audience it deserves on DVD.

The local release is well conceived although the picture quality is underwhelming.

Angel-A is released under the Director’s Suite label, hopefully this means Luc Besson’s Leon will finally be released (in both versions) locally on DVD. Finger’s crossed.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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