In this week’s installment of this series, we’ll be featuring the life and work of French filmmaker Luc Besson.
Luc Besson was born on March, 18, 1959 in Paris, France. A son of scuba diving instructors, Besson had initially wanted to become a marine biologist. He had spent his childhood touring with his parents to different resorts in Europe. Like them, he became a diver and even swam with a wild dolphin! Unfortunately, an accident at the age of 17 caused him to be unable to pursue this dream.
Besson discovered an interest in film and television when he moved back to his birthplace at 18. His intention initially was to finish school, but he eventually dropped out. He began to occupy himself with watching films and writing his own stories. He also started to take odd jobs and as assistant director to some French directors, at the same time having also directed a few short films, TV advertisements, and a documentary.
When he was 19, Besson moved to the US and stayed there for the next three years learning about films while working in the industry. Upon his return to France, Besson founded the Les Films du Loup (later the Les Films du Dauphin) production company. Besson was also a key figure in the formation of French film company EuropaCorp.
Besson’s directorial debut was the short film “L’Avant-Dernier” (1981). The then 24-year old director made waves with this work that won awards at the prestigious Avoriaz Science Fiction Film Festival, as well as 18 more from other international festivals. His first full-length feature followed two years after, the black-and-white film “Le Dernier Combat”
Besson has been involved in more than 70 films since then as director, writer, and producer. Regarded as the French Steven Spielberg, some of Besson’s most successful works include “Le Grand Bleu” (1988), the “Arthur”, “The Transporter”, and “Taxi” series, “Le Femme Nikita” (1990), “Léon: The Professional” (1994), and “The Fifth Element” (1997). He has won various Best Director and Best Film awards mostly from international film festivals. Aside from movies, Besson has also directed five music videos, one of which was for Madonna’s “Love Profusion”.
Besson was regarded as an important figure in the _cinéma du look_ together with directors Jean-Jacques Beinex and Leos Carax. The directors in this French film movement were said to “favor style over substance, spectacle over narrative,” while the movies “[have] a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters that were said to represent the marginalised youth of François Mitterrand’s France.” Mitterand was the 21st president of France from 1981 until 1995.
Besson was also criticized for being “the most Hollywood of French filmmakers.” Regardless, he continues to be active, remaining to be an important driving force in the filmmaking industry.
All information in this article were sourced from Wikipedia and The New York Times, where further reading about Luc Besson may also be done. Further reading for cinéma du look: Contemporary French Cinema: An Introduction and Luc Besson’s filmmography.