Angela-A descends on Blu-ray at a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 using the MPEG-4/AVC codec, and deserving of Arbogast's cinematography, it is a fine transfer indeed.
Again being black and white this stands or falls on the contrast and the black levels which can be reached; it can stand proud on both those fronts. Black levls are deep and inky with no apparent crush and fine detail available in the shadows of the bar room scenes, Paris in the early morning or the dimly lit streets that Angela and André often walk down. Whites peak but never bloom and even for a black and white feature such as this there is no creep into any of the surrounding areas. Take a look at some of the Parisian shots for instance, the horizon is crisp and bold yet the cityscape below it is still perfectly discrete and defined.
Detail is more than apparent in the clothing, stitches and textures, as well as the bridges which appear all too frequently. The nightclub has some excellent detail in the bottles behind the bar, the myriad of people enjoying their dances and the toilet cubicles to the rear. Any and all distant shots of Paris are wonderful insofar they can be paused and individual buildings perused. The image still appears a little flat and doesn't quite display the 3-dimensionality that truly incredible transfers offer.
There are no encoding errors and that's a joy to see; no banding in the subtle grey gradients used, no blocking or noise in some of the darker scenes. The print is in excellent shape as it should be for a film just a few years old with no blemishes to be found. Some subtle grain is apparent throughout.
The original French audio track on offer is a 5.1 DTS-HD MA offering which whilst not setting any fires alight by any stretch of the imagination certainly does its job more than adequately. There is also a French stereo LPCM track.
There little in the way of surround use, most of the action being up front. There are some discrete effects such as traffic, birds and tourists around the base of the Eiffel Tower but really nothing much more to speak of. The frontal array is where is all hangs together.
Dialogue is nicely prioritised in the centre channel, occasionally drifting to the sides as and when needed as characters move or are off screen. Anja Garbarek's score drifts almost woefully from the left and right speakers and adds an airy feel to the bright image. The score is detailed and pin sharp, favouring higher tones with the mid range adequately accounted for. There is little in the way of LFE use as it's not really needed.
Panning at the fronts is good and timed well with the action on screen but this is really limited to traffic effects as cars or buses dart by.
- Making of Angel-A. - 0:26:50 -576i/MPEG-2
Not necessarily introduced but predominantly steered by lead actor and all round funny man, Jamel Debbouze. Although this is the usual length for a making of featurette, it's like a TARDIS in that there's more in here than immediately meets the eye. It seems to cram everything in that you would want to know about; filming, the actors, the production crew which have accompanied Besson on this travels for so many years. The locations in and around Paris are discussed as are the interior scenes constructed by set designer. In English and French with subtitles as required. A good watch and one I would recommend.
- Making the Music of Angel-A. - 0:13:53 - 576i//MPEG-2
A study of the music which composer Anja Gabarek created for this feature. If you like your scores then I would suggest that this is one to get a hold of. It has a surreal, almost trippy, feel to it which almost takes you out of the film. An excellent listen.
- The Video. - 0:03:28 - 576i/MPEG-2
A short video to accompany the main feature. Anja Gabarek sings and stars in the music she wrote herself. Interesting, melodic and calming.
- Trailer. - 0:01:47 - 576i/MPEG-2
As the name suggests.
Not an extensive set of extras by any stretch of the imagination and a commentary by Besson would have been the icing on the cake for this crafted little film. What we do have is pretty condensed, lean with no fat on the bones, and whilst there's not that many extras I can say it's a better package than some which appear to be bursting at the seams whilst not really saying anything. If you like the film then I would advise just diving right into these extras as soon as those final credits roll. If a commentary had been there and it was an enjoyable one then this might have gone all the way to eight; as it stands, as enjoyable as these are, it still can only raise a pretty decent 6.
Like Amile, Angel-A is a film that you sort of stumble over once in a blue moon. If it were not for Besson's name behind it then you would probably discount it from the get go. Even with his name there it's not really what you're going to be expecting. What starts off as almost signature stuff from Besson mellows, has a little more depth and is all the more enjoyable for it.
As I have never seen a version of the film other than the Blu-ray release then I have nothing to compare it to. What I can say is that the visuals of Paris in black and white are beautifully rendered on this high definition release, the audio is good for what it needs to be and the extras package whilst a little thin on the ground has everything you would really want other than a good commentary.
I'm more than happy to have watched and reviewed this, and hope to point a few of you in the direction of viewing it yourself. That may be a purchase for some, perhaps to complete your Besson collection or for others a rental. Either way it's a cracking watch and comes highly recommended.
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