Outcasts and Action – Luc Besson – Part 1

Born in Paris in 1959 Luc Paul Maurice Besson, his parents were Scuba diving instructors. Because of this he was keen to grow up and study marine biology as an adult, but a twist of fate saw him do otherwise. After a diving accident that left him hospitalized and unable to drive, Besson tried to find an outlet for both his boredom and creativity. Having to rethink his career at this point he simply made a list of his skills and one of his interests in a last-ditch brainstorm to see what he was best suited for – his keen sense of visuals and images gave him the idea of becoming a filmmaker. It was around this time when he began developing the script for one of his greatest outings The Fifth Element. Eager to get into the industry but sensible enough to not dive in unprepared he spent much time in France on film sets getting a feel for the environment. Among his duties he spent time as an assistant to French directors such as Claude Faraldo and Patrick Grandperret among others, he then frequently traveled to the US to get acquainted with the home of film.

One of his first breaks was with his film Subway. This comedy/drama starred an impressive French cast that featured not just leads Isabelle Adjani and Christophe Lambert but also Jean Reno who Besson would work with several times more. This film, though unconventional by broader standards has the trademarks of Besson’s which he still uses today. Categorised as Cinéma du look, this very visually orientated, finely crafted aesthetic mixed with themes of young outcasts and alienated rebels unsurprisingly made this popular with teens and was thought to reflect the mentality of youth culture at the time. As well as including many of the hallmarks of this new French look, such as featuring the Paris Metro (possibly an a metaphor for the underground scene), Subway was as musical as it was visual. With music performances throughout thanks to the main character Fred forming a band and playing their song ‘It’s Only Mystery’, French musician Éric Serra was responsible for the score which sold over 100,000 copies in France alone. The film did well enough critically and received a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating of 86%.

Later Besson wrote and directed La Femme Nikita, which would further cement fragments of his trademark style and his work in the action genre. After a streak of crimes, Teenage nihilist Nikita (played by (Anne Parillaud) is given a life threatening ultimatum when she should have been sentenced to life imprisonment, opting to keep breathing she appeases her captures by agreeing to train as an assassin. Murder turns out to be a skill she excels at, and so a string of wonderfully captured brutal crimes follow. The film was applauded enough that a TV series based on the action and the characters would continue stories, in 2010 a revised version showed Nikita going rogue.