In an intensely prolific three-decade
career filmmaker Luc Besson, once described as the French Steven
Spielberg, has written and produced several dozen features, among them
such blockbusters as the Transporter series and Taken with
Liam Neeson. His own films as director include such highly-regarded
outings as The Fifth Element, Nikita and Leon the
Professional, and he is considered a pivotal figure in the Cinema du
Look movement, with its emphasis on alienation, underground societies
and the incessant questioning of authority.
Perhaps due as much to its directorís
penchant for monochrome as to monetary constraints, Bessonís 1983
feature length debut Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle)
was shot entirely in black and white. Released locally as part of
Madmanís Directorís Suite, the film takes place in a post-apocalyptic
futurescape, where roving gangs wander the bleak terrain in search of
food, shelter and the increasingly rare prospect of female
companionship. Human beings have lost the ability to speak, and the
fact the entire film plays without a single word of dialogue further
emphasises the isolation experienced by its characters.
When we are introduced to our nameless
protagonist (Pierre Jolivet), designated ĎThe Maní in the end credits,
he is making love to a blow-up doll, desperate for even a semblance of
human intimacy. Eventually tiring of life in his ramshackle abode, a
decrepit office block in the middle of a desert populated with wordless
thugs, he sets off for a distant ruined city in his rickety homemade
aircraft. Existence in this bombed-out metropolis, which resembles a
post-siege Stalingrad, initially appears equally tenuous and no less
lonely. Beset upon by a libidinous scavenger (Gallic stalwart Jean
Reno), The Man is forced to seek refuge in the sewers. Eventually
however he finds solace in an abandoned hospital and befriends The
Doctor, with whom he shares meals and plays table tennis in an effort to
stave off the boredom of his loveless existence. That is, The Doctor
reveals his secret: a woman he keeps locked up in one of the remote
areas of the hospital complex.
A starkly affecting melodrama interspersed
with moments of Chaplin-esque levity and a distinct flair for the
unexpected, The Last Battle is one of the most daring and
singular entries in the canon of 1980s sci-fi. A beguiling blend of
both Hollywood and arthouse aesthetics, the film succeeds.
Audio & Video
Black and white films generally present
impeccably on Blu-ray, and thatís certainly the case here; itís hard to
imagine The Last Battle ever looking better than this. The film
also boasts a typically intriguing score from longtime Besson
collaborator Eric Serra; Josef K-esque synth noodling, fitful bursts of
post-punk distemper and jags of drunken jazz, interspersed with lengthy
interludes of near-silence. The whole affair both looks and sounds
brilliant, and though the soundtrack is thirty years old and presented
in 2.0 it wants for nothing in the way of clarity or audacity.
This is the only real negative. Nothing in
the way of bonus features has been included, just a theatrical trailer.
Still, the film itself is essentially Mad Max done by Jean-Luc
Godard, so you canít really complain.