Every film student needs a favourite director. Apparently. Having looked into auteur theory (ooh the theoretical misconceptions that come about from bad translations) for my presentation I could rant quite informedly about exactly why that’s a complete fallacy and a terribly myopic method of viewing cinema in general but that’s a digression for another day (or at least another post). Anyway it’s expected. And after too many people looking at you as if you’re not a proper film student because you don’t have a favourite film director, you give up and find one. Mine is Luc Besson. A lot of my wages in 3rd year went on attempting to buy his entire body of work. Which given how much Monsieur Besson has scriptwritten, directed or produced since his debut in 1983 is a bigger and more expensive task than I realised and one which I’ve given up on. Apparently he’s only actually directed 10 movies and as I know I own at least 6 of them I can probably manage to own them all. Having been one of the three original proponents of the Cinéma du Look movement in French cinema he seemed the perfect example to use for my presentation. And you know, any excuse to inflict my favourite director on my classmates. Le Dernier Combat being one of the earliest films of the movement it seemed a good excuse to finally get round to watching it.
It’s not like any other film I’ve ever seen before. Shot in black and white (though it’s more like a sepia tone), with practically no dialogue at all, it portrays a post-apocalyptic world, of wrecked buildings, sweeping deserts and humans returned to almost savagery. And a notable shortage of both water and women. They also appear to have entirely lost the ability to speak. There are only two lines of dialogue in the whole film, between the protagonist and a doctor who takes him in after he’s attacked. The Doctor (who is first revealed as such when the protagonist stumbles upon him doing beautiful cave paintings on the walls of his hospital ward) has discovered that by inhaling some of one of his medical gases he can manage to say a few words. The scene where they speak is one of frustration and sheer unadulterated joy. Sound is used to great effect in the film. With the powerful score, rhythmic beat and amplified atmos that would come to typify films of the Cinéma du Look. It’s a film both gentle and brutal, with the central character caught between both these forces, and the soundtrack reflects that. The cinematography is beautiful, sweeping desert vistas, crumbling architecture, frantic chases and escapes, claustrophobic corridors and tunnels and beautiful inexplicable women hidden away among the brutal and often wanton destruction. Comparing it to Besson’s latest directorial offering Angel-A he seems to have come full circle with his film making. And having seen his first feature length film it’s nice to be able to look at his body of work in general and make vaguely knowledgeable generalisations.