Un mélange de styles distincts

Yes, those gams are realDuring the eighties, Luc Besson was part of France’s latest crop of New Wave filmmakers. Known as a writer/director/producer who embraced beauty of the widescreen frame in his dialogue-free, black & white post-apocalyptic Le Dernier Combat (1983), Besson introduced us to a spike-haired Christopher Lambert in the oddball underground action comedy Subway (1985), constructed a hypnotic, frustrating fantasy-drama about free-diving in Le Grand bleu / The Big Blue (1988), and earned his first real critical acclaim with his inimitable hitwoman drama, La Femme Nikita (1990).

The American remake of Nikita, Point of No Return (1993) signaled Besson’s shift as a more executive-oriented filmmaker who sanctioned remakes, sold rights for TV series, and began to focus more on franchises and sequels instead of doing what he did best: write and direct offbeat films peppered with kinetic action, or make comedies that are some of the closest attempts to craft live-action versions of classic Warner Bros. cartoons. The Fifth Element (1998) remains Besson’s best and most satisfying animation tribute, yet it also symbolizes his increasingly rare forays as director.

After The Messenger (1999), Besson’s uneven Joan of Arc epic, the director took off six years before returning to directing, and when Angel-A appeared in North America, the film seemed to disappear after a short North American run – perhaps an indication, and perhaps more typical of this continent, that if your name doesn’t make annual headlines, it becomes a classic case of out of sight, out of mind.

Of course, whether co-produced and released in Europe by longtime studio partner Columbia or 20th Century-Fox, a lot of the films Besson has produced, written, or conceived stories for have either gone straight to video, or never crossed the Atlantic ocean in spite of being available in Asia and England on DVD with English subtitles and occasional English dub tracks.

Interestingly, the strangest example of this abandonment occurred early in his career. Atlantis, Besson’s underwater home movie/oceanic documentary, made right after Femme Nikita in 1991, more or less went straight to video in North America in 2003; the only way (at least in Canada) the film could be seen prior to its DVD release (which has since gone out of print) was to catch a badly panned & scanned mono broadcast on TVO, or Quebec’s TFO.

(The soundtrack album of Eric Serra’s Atlantis score was available on CD around the time of the film’s theatrical release, which may have been a contractual obligation by Virgin, since the label distributed Serra’s Big Blue score on LP and CD – itself an ironic move, given the composer’s music was dumped from that film after Besson’s 168 min. cut was edited down to 118 mins. for North America, with a new Bill Conti score that has yet to receive a commercial release.)

A more likely reason that many of Besson’s films have yet to breach the North American market comes from a perception that people don’t like reading subtitles, and in the case of remakes, legal agreements. That’s probably what’s kept Besson’s Taxi films from appearing as Region 1 editions with English subtitle tracks (although French-only widescreen versions of Taxis 1-4 are available through Canada’s Quebec-based Christal Films).

It’s unfortunate, given the first film is a buoyant little jaunt, and furthered the careers of its three main actors – Samy Naceri, Frédéric Diefenthal, and Marion Cotillard (La vie en rose) – as popular French cinema stars, but it’s hardly a new scenario. Claude Zidi’s La Totale! has yet to receive a Region 1 release, although the American remake, James Cameron’s True Lies, is very much in print on DVD.

(One major advantage to living in a bilingual country like Canada is the fact Quebec stations and home video distributors sometimes show films unavailable anywhere else on the continent. Albeit without subtitles, La Totale! pops up on TV once in a while, and Besson’s 168 min. version of The Big Blue was seen when the French language Pay TV station picked up the rights years before the current Region 1 DVD, and before a VHS PAL tape that provided an English subtitled version to British fans.)

Besson’s Angel-A may also have been theatrically marginalized because unlike his subsequent directorial effort, the family-friendly animated tale Arthur and the Minimoys / Arthur et les Minimoys (2006), the little romantic comedy was in black & white, and had actors unfamiliar to North America, so it was given a quick art house release before gliding onto DVD.

While not an epic and free from massive gunfights, explosions, and aliens, it’s an unusually personable film from Besson, and shows him in good form, focusing on a handful of characters, as in his first film, Le dernier combat. Shorn of the need to evoke franchise elements, it’s amiable fluff whose only major flaw is a dreadfully maudlin final reel, as further examined in our DVD review.

Also new to the website are reviews of Live Free or Die Hard, the latest and surprisingly fun installment in the Die Hard franchise, released on regular DVD with full R-rated swearing not present during its theatrical run; and a long & retentive assessment of I Know Who Killed Me, one of the most ineptly conceived and executed serial killer thrillers in recent years, and whose laughable twist ending may transform this Lindsay Lohan mess into a good bad movie favourite on home video.

We’ve also added another pair of long reviews for Mario Bava’s lone sex comedy, Four Times That Night / Quante volte... quella notte (1972), and comedy western, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack / Roy Colt e Winchester Jack (1970), both available in new & improved transfers as part of the Mario Bava Collection Vol. 2, from Anchor Bay/Starz Home Entertainment.

Imminent are soundtrack reviews, arty smut, an interview with composer Elia Cmiral, and the new 3-disc Evil Dead set.

Yes, you’re going to have to buy it again.


Visit KQEK.com’s Main Page HERE!
Rare Soundtrack CDs for Sale: Discounted up to 30%!
Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews


Copyright © mondomark