Cheat Sheet: Luc Besson


Luc Besson

Date of birth:

18th March 1959

Place of birth:

Paris, France

Special moves:

Writing, Directing, Producing

Films include:

Léon, Transporter, Taxi, The Fifth Element, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adèle Blanc Sec

What you probably already know:

Ah Luc Besson. The man who gave us the throw-away, animal joys of the Transporter franchise, as well as Taxi, The Fifth Element, and recently The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc Sec. Known mainly for his “style over substance” action flicks, he’s the king of joyful, colourful movie-titillation and it’s hard to believe he’s same man who gave us the moody, character-driven Léon (launching the career of 12 year old Natalie Portman). Along with directors Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax he became known as a championer of a style labelled ‘Cinema Du Look’; 1980s/90s films that had a slick visual style, and a focus on young, alienated characters who had few family ties and/or inevitably doomed love affairs. This label wasn’t really a compliment; the ‘cinema du look’ movement was all about flashy visuals and very little else, and above all else it seemed to point towards a bastardisation of the immensely popular New Wave cinema of the 50s and 60s. It was chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out films for big audiences with short attention spans, and surprisingly enough Besson never really warmed to the definition.

What you might not know

Besson was never supposed to be a film-maker; his parents were both professional scuba divers, and as a child young Luc longed to follow in their shiny flippers. Sadly though, a car accident when he was seventeen meant that he could no longer dive, and he had to re-think his career plan. He’d often been bored in school, spending time scribbling down ideas for stories rather than working and it was one of these jottings that served as the basis for The Fifth Element – the film that ended up headlining Cannes film festival in 1997. Besson always believed that not growing up around cinema was beneficial to his film-making, as it made him maintain his connection to the natural world of sun and sea that his parents loved. He was married to Resident Evil star Milla Jovovich for two tender years (between 1997-1999), and has four daughters and one son (all sadly unconnecred to kick-ass Milla).

Luc Besson quote:

“I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn’t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn’t know much about the masters of world cinema.”

What to say at a dinner party:

“It’s interesting, isn’t it, how the dissolving of narrative in favour of visual splendour can be heralded as a cinematic revolution at one time, and can be simply lambasted as a shrugging off of any real substance at another.”

What not to say at a dinner party:

“Wait, did he try and cop off with Natalie Portman when she was 12?”

Final thought:

Say what you like about Besson’s dubious place in the cinematic text-books, there’s no denying that his films are as fast, furious, colourful and gloriously noisy as a lovely Alsatian covered in paint. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc Sec is out next week – go and decide your stance on him for yourself…

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