The Essential Luc Besson
Luc Besson is one of the most stylish voices in world cinema. From his early films as part of the ‘Cinema du Look’ movement of the late 1980s to his Hollywood hits like Leon and The Fifth Element, he has constantly produced unique, entertaining and unashamedly populist movies. April 22 sees him return to UK cinemas with Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, The (2010), a cracking 1920s set adventure featuring plenty of action, dinosaurs and re-animated mummies. Which makes it the perfect time to look down his career to date.
The Last Battle (1983)
Besson’s first feature is a wordless post apocalyptic tale of a nameless man hounded through a desolate wasteland by Besson’s most frequent collaborator, Jean Reno. It may be a tad short on plot, but it’s stark black and white imagery will stick with you for days.
Besson’s break-through domestic hit was this idiosyncratic comedy-thriller about the inhabitants of Paris’ metro system. It was a cornerstone of the ‘Cinema du Look’ movement of 80s French cinema, and also features Jean Reno on roller-skates.
The Big Blue (1988)
This tale of the rivalry between two competing free divers unsurprisingly looks absolutely beautiful, but is one of the most divisive films in Besson’s oeuvre. More of a slow burn thriller than a high octane action-fest, it may drag at points but it presents one of the most transcendent visions of the ocean ever seen on screen.
This thriller about a teenage junkie drafted in to a government assassin was Besson’s international break through and has even spawned two separate TV spin-offs. A cracking little action movie that still holds up today, it also features a brilliant cameo from (yes, you guessed it) Jean Reno as the ‘cleaner’ flown in to sort out Nikita’s mess.
A star making role for Natalie Portman, Jean Reno’s most iconic performance, Gary Oldman’s scenery chewing bad guy and the best houseplant in the history of cinema all appear in Besson’s Hollywood debut. A highly original mix of Le Samourai and Lolita, it is unlike any other Hollywood thriller every made.
The Fifth Element (1997)
The most expensive French movie ever made (even if it is in English) stars Bruce Willis as a down on his luck space cabbie whose life is thrown upside down by the mysterious and sexy Milla Jovovich. Visually stunning and unique, though might want to fast-forward through Chris Tucker’s cameo a highly annoying intergalactic DJ.
Joan of Arc (1999)
After filming The Fifth Element Besson went on to marry Jovovich in Las Vegas. And then go sky diving right after the ceremony. To top off the nuptials, he then cast his new bride as French national heroine and Catholic Saint Joan of Arc. Some have questioned the film’s historical accuracy, it’s a blistering, breathtaking period romp none the less.
After six years dabbling in his hobby of producing Euro action flicks (including Taken and the Taxi and Transporter franchises), Besson returned to fable about a down on his luck crook who is saved by a mysterious woman. Shot in crisp black and white, it’s one of Besson’s most low key films, but also probably his most tender.
Arthur and the Invisibles (2006)
Not many would have expected the director of Nikita and Leon to go on to make a CGI kids film, but the first in a trilogy, based on books by Besson himself, is great fun for the young’uns. The English language version also includes an incredibly eclectic voice cast including Robert DeNiro,Mia Farrow, Snoop Dogg, Madonna and David Bowie.
Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, The (2010)
Besson’s latest film tells the tales of the titular Adele, an intrepid young reporter, who will go to any lengths to achieve her aims – even if that means sailing to Egypt to tackle mummies of all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, back in Paris, a 136 million-year old pterodactyl egg has hatched and the prehistoric monster in on the loose! Based on a classic European comic book, the film is brimming with ideas and shows Besson back on top form.
Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, The (2010) is out 22 April 2011