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I May Destroy You
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To me this movie felt more like a mood-peice and a style-pratice than an actual story, but it still managed to keep me engaged throughout due to it's great atmosphere and beautiful cinematography. I also really liked some of the weird ideas that was thrown in.
So maybe not a post apocalyptic classic, but an interesting debut by Luc Besson none the less :)
Serving as the feature length directorial debut of Luc Besson, The Last Battle sounded like a chance to examine the early parts of the cinema du look movement.
Luc Besson films tend to have scripts which do not offer much in terms of dialogue or even story as he works frequently with high-concept narratives. His stories don't tend to be about anything in particular as they favour concept over content and style over substance, so a low-budget creation by such a filmmaker would of course be no exception. As a result it is more forgivable this time, but it doesn't prevent me from discussing the limitations of its entertainment value. The context of The Last Battle must be understood for it to be appreciated. The film is a low-budget experimental film from the earliest parts of Luc Besson's career when the cinema du look movement had just been sparked two years prior with the release of Jean-Jacques Beneix's Diva (1981). When compared to many of his later works, The Last Battle seems all the more impressive since it didn't try to overdo anything and instead proudly experimented with diverting conventional filmmaking away. The result is a film which embodies the cinema du look style for better and for worse, and though the viewer's opinion may vary when considering the entertainment value and age of the film, I personally find it to be an artistic, if not consistently entertaining piece.
While there is a lack of content in The Last Battle, concept is minimal as well. The lack of story context leaves the viewer to determine what is happening and how the world has become a post-apocalyptic wasteland while simply relying on implications and mis en scene to drive the narrative. In that sense the film is a definitive part of the cinema du look movement as it is all about the look, and yet this time it is the mystery that intrigues the viewer. Audiences are thrown into an unestablished context, but rather than being frustrating it sets up an element of fantasy for the film which is also prevalent in cinema du look films. There is much creative experimentation that goes on in The Last Battle to get around the lack of narrative, and while it may not always be the most entertaining feature there is no denying just how much it is in debt to Luc Besson's sense of style. Admittedly, the lack of narrative context leaves the story unpredictable to the point that asking what is the purpose for particular plot elements becomes rather obselete. This causes things to become rather confusing at times, but it is heavily acceptable in favour of the more intriguing plot points and the unpredictable nature of the universe. It's almost an oxymoron because the ambiguousness and directionlessness of the narrative is both a source of unpredictable creativity and scattered lack of focus. The viewer is left to determine which way they lean on this, but acknowledging that the feature is a low-budget experiment makes me certain that I can view the feature in a more favourable light.
The Last Battle is so bereft of screenplay that dialogue is absolutely minimal. Luc Besson films have a tendency to aim at the Hollywood market through use of English Language while the French setting engages with the director's homeland. In The Last Battle, nothing about context is established and despite the intro text being in French there is essentially nothing spoken in the film. The lack of dialogue renders The Last Battle a film which can be marketed widely to a transatlantic audience as every culture is open to interpreting a film bereft of language. As a result, the film exists purely to be a visual spectacle. Through the moderated use of sound effects as the backdrop for a black and white, there is a sense of dead universe which allows room for unpredictable intensity to slowly build its way up. In that sense, The Last Battle simultaneously provides both a valid step forward for innovation in stylish filmmaking and a step back to the era of silent filmmaking, fuelling the feature with nostalgic value. Luc Besson's eye for imagery is the asset that drives The Last Battle, and the lack of dialogue also challenges the actors to engage with the universe of the narrative on a physical level. This creates a surrealist narrative which feels very much like a story of evolution in reverse. The characters only have the drive to either survive, kill or learn. And the manner in which they convey this to the audience through physical acting is an impressive feat.
The standout of the cast is Jean Reno because his physical acting is impressive. Much like his later role as the titular character in Luc Besson's Leon: The Professional, Jean Reno conveys a lot of powerful implications in is physical acting through something as simple as his facial expressions. In that manner, he is able to maintain the illusion of being friendly while also being antagonistic, making the nature of his behaviour a mystery. He gets his own distinctive charms entangled into the mystery and establishes his role in the story through progressively developing more intensity in his effort, proving just how talented he can be with something strictly physical.
Pierre Jolivet has a lack of distinction about him, meaning that he has a real everyman nature about him. That way, he blends in with the crowd as easily as he blends with the universe around him. The physical engagement in everything comes so naturally to the man because he has a real sense of determination which is easily conveyed. His energy is strong and he has a genuinely friendly feeling to him, and he is able to develop so that when he reaches the narrative climax he is able to bring real tension to the feature. Pierre Jolivet is easily an effective leading man in The Last Battle.
Jean Bouise also does a nice job, able to convey friendliness, wisdom and frailty all in his physical mannerisms.
So The Last Battle is ambiguous and unpredictable for better and for worse, but ultimately its intense focus on style and Luc Besson's pursuit of this experimental vision craft an experience with more creativity than faults.
the first of many Luc Besson and Jean Reno collaboration
Very interesting debut from Besson.
Never has a post-apocalyptic landscape been so hilarious. This is a gem of a debut by Luc Besson shot in black & white with no dialogue.
The widescreen, black and white cinematography is a joy to watch, and Besson is nothing if not an efficient and skilled director.
For a movie with zero dialog it keeps you laughing an rooting.
Le meilleur film de Besson? Certainement. La raison? Aucun dialogue.
Despite the unappealing soundtrack that fails to grab our senses and some somewhat imprecise aspects, it has fiber.
It's shot black-and-white, wordless and with minimal budget yet is the most modern-looking and forward-thinking Luc Besson film. A must see.