At the age of 22, Luc Besson released his first short film “L’avant dernier,” (translation: Next to Last) in which he also appeared. It starred Jean Reno, an actor that he would work with repeatedly in future films. Besson’s new film “Lucy” starring Scarlet Johansen hits theaters across the country this week, and it’s nowhere near ‘next to last’, on Luc’s list of movies.
Besson’s approach to filmmaking is probably the most avant garde to any other among my favorites. The first time I saw “Subway,” I was like “that was different,” but I LOVED it! Then came “La Femme Nikita” and I was hooked on his style of storytelling. The next film I saw of his was “The Professional,” that starred Reno, Gary Oldman and featured newcomer Natalie Portman. It was her first feature film. “What an awesome young actress” I thought, now she’s an Oscar winner and her feature film directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness” is in post-production.
A French filmmaker, Besson’s “La Femme Nikita” has since had an American adaptation called “The Point of No Return,” which later took on the name “The Assassin” – or is it the other way around? It stars Bridget Fonda, but paled in my opinion to the original, that featured Anne Parillaud as the main character. When the story of the female killer went to television, they came back to “La Femme Nikita.” “The Professional” was released in France as “Leon.” Nowadays the film is called “Leon: The Professional.” No matter how movie/ T.V. studios feel they need to market his films for the purpose of box office, viewership or retail success, Besson’s style remains unique from that of most writers and directors. He’s directed 21 of the movies he’s written thus far, but he’s penned over twice that much, and produced twice the amount he’s written.
All of his releases are steeped in action and drama, whether the main character is male or female, this Friday “Lucy” hits theaters. Starring Scarlett Johansson, it’s about a woman who’s a victim at first, that turns the table on her captors with their own device. This is the second time Scarlett has appeared in one of Luc’s movies. The first was “Kiss of the Dragon,” for which he wrote the screenplay, based on a story by Jet-Li who starred in it. “Lucy” also stars Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, who starred opposite Jet-Li, in another film written by Besson titled “Unleashed.” “Unleashed” also starred British actor Bob Hoskins as a gangster, in a role that’s reminiscent to his characters in the classics “The Long Good Friday” and “Mona Lisa.”
Other films either written or directed by Besson include: “The Big Blue” or “Le Grand Bleu,” depending on the French or U.S. release; “The Fifth Element,” that starred Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Oldman & Chris Tucker; “Taxi,” that also had French and American versions, but retained the same name. Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon were double-billed for the American comedy, that has three French sequels – talk of a U.S. sequel never came to pass http://museumofuncutfunk.com/2014/07/19/queen-latifah-is-the-empress-of-the-blues/. There’s “Taken,” that starred Liam Neeson in the first two; the third installment puts Oscar winner Forest Whitaker in the seat of the bad-ass – it’s in post-production set for release next year. “The Transporter” is Besson’s biggest franchise to date. The first three starred Jason Statham; the fourth installment is currently being shot, and sequels for “Tranporter” five and six have already been announced. Like ‘La Femme’, ‘Transporter’ was also a TV show.
My favorites though are his films where the woman is the kick-ass heroin. After ‘Nikita’ and ‘Element’, there’s “The Dancer”; “Angel-A”; “The Lady”; “Bandidas” with Salma Hayek & Penelope Cruz; and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc with Jovovich and John Malkovich, all of which I have yet to see; and “Columbiana” that starred Zoe Saldana. More films from Besson are “3 Days to Kill” with Kevin Costner; “Revolver” with Statham and Andre Benjamin; “Lockout” starring Guy Pearce; “The Family” with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer; “From Paris with Love” featuring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; one of Paul Walker’s last movies “Brick Mansions”; “District B13” & “District 13: Ultimatum; and his children’s films “Arthur and the Invisibles,” which has two sequels. Celebrities Madonna, Mia Farrow, Selena Gomez, and Fallon, have all lent their voices to that series of animated flicks.
This Friday I’ll be front and center with popcorn for the adventure of “Lucy”! I can’t imagine you’ve missed it, but here’s the trailer…
UPDATE 7/ 20/ 15: Besson’s next film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” is based on the French comic book sci-fi series, “Valérian and Laureline” created by writers Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. According to IMDb, time-traveling agent Valerian is sent to investigate a galactic empire, along with his beautiful new partner Laureline.
for the Love of LUC