9pm Showing: Leon
September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Director Luc Besson is one of the pioneers of Cinema du look, a French film movement of the 1980’s. Besson and a two other French film-makers, Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax, all shared this “look”, they were seen as the new Nouvelle Vague. Inspired by that new breed of Hollywood director like Coppola and Scorsese, music videos, commercials and fashion, Cinema du look favoured style over substance and spectacle over narrative.
Besson’s movies are indeed pretty and well-crafted and his narrative sometimes made way for his slick and stylish form of action that is similar to that of John Woo and that generation of Hong Kong action movies. However, his films have been criticised by way of being too commercial and interchangeable and for being too Hollywood for a pioneering French film maker. Nevertheless, Luc Besson deserves praise for refining and revolutionising the action film genre.
Besson’s look and style is seen in waves in his 1994 chef-d’oeuvre, Leon. Seen as an expansion on the Victor character from his 1990 film Nikita, Leon is graphically and balletically violent. Where Leon lacks in profound narrative, it makes up by way of highly stylised celestial action sequences, years before The Matrix was even a glint in the Wachowski Brothers’ eyes. Besson’s close concentration, intense framing and his important use of light and shadow are signs of a really unique film maker, his story and writing may be absent of a certain level of depth or humanity, yet it is not his plot that drives this film, but its action and the character’s that play out in front of us. I do not understand why Jean Reno doesn’t make more films. He is fantastic, a heated level of intensity and simmering emotion that adds the right amount of humanity to this character, a brilliant performance from a different type of action star. Gary Oldman is divinely psychotic and brilliantly over the top, his manic behaviour boils over in each moment he is on-screen, it is like watching a tsunami erupt. Sensational.
Besson’s abundance of style and severe lack of substance, is testament enough to his ability as a film maker. The fact that he can still make a succesful, unique and highly charged motion picture even with a insufficient narrative. He knows how he wants the film to look, his films will always have the certain glisten and spark and you are always visually drawn to his camerawork, the way he uses every inch of the frame to benefit the style of the motion picture and that is why he is a brilliant yet arguably underrated director.
Image courtesy of abovethebuzz.com