Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Ultimate Luc Besson Collection, The (Blu-ray)

Ultimate Luc Besson Collection, The (Blu-ray)

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Released 17-Apr-2013

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Overall Package

   Luc Besson is one of my favourite film makers especially from a sheer entertainment perspective and over his career he has made some excellent films and some not so good ones, but they are generally always entertaining. This box set collects all seven films by Luc Besson which have been released on the Madman Director's suite range on Blu-ray. These films probably represent the pinnacle of his career from his early films through to his biggest box office success, The Fifth Element. All of the discs included here replicate the original Madman separate Blu-ray disc releases, all of which we have previously reviewed. This set is available at a budget price of around $65 depending on where you shop which considering the quality of the films included makes it an absolute bargain.

    The films are packaged together in one multi-disc Blu-ray case, containing 7 separate discs. A wonderful collection of films by French Director Luc Besson packaged together at a bargain price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
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Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983)

Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983)

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Released 17-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 92:40 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Pierre Jolivet
Jean Bouise
Fritz Wepper
Jean Reno
Christiane Krüger
Maurice Lamy
Pierre Carrive
Jean-Michel Castanié
Michel Doset
Bernard Havet
Marcel Berthomier
Petra Müller
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Linear PCM 96/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Watching a brilliant feature film from a debut director is always such a delight; I can’t help but think there are many masterpieces to come from South African director Neill Blomkamp who wrote and directed the exceptional District 9 (2009) and was named one of the ‘100 Most Influential People of 2010’ by Time magazine (read Ridley Scott's editorial here), or British director Duncan Jones, who directed the sublime Moon (2009) which rightly received many International film prizes.

     Luc Besson, at age 25, was equally also highly regarded upon the release of his feature film debut Le Dernier Combat (1983); he not only received a nomination for the Cesar award for ‘Meilleure première oeuvre’ (Best First Work) the French equivalent of an Academy Award nomination, but by the end of the 1980s he was widely credited with revolutionising modern French cinema and regarded as the part of the ‘Cinema Du Look’ movement, alongside Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax. Besson co-wrote Le Dernier Combat with lead actor Pierre Jolivet and it was expanded from the short film L’avant dernier (1981) which also starred Jolivet, Jean Reno (who also appeared in Le Dernier Combat) and Fabice Roche.

     In many contemporary essays on Le Dernier Combat, the ambitious science fiction-western has often been unfairly linked to George Miller’s influential Mad Max (1979) as both films share a ruined dystopian landscape and subsequent gang violence. I however would argue that these are the lone similarities between the post apocalyptic films as the ‘heroes’ in each respective feature films are wildly different. For example “Mad” Max Rockatansky is a Main Force Patrol officer, whose murderous actions are the result of revenge killings and he remains an anti-hero by the conclusion of the feature film; he is the embodiment of the triumph of good over evil. In comparison the audience never really gets to know the ‘hero’ of Le Dernier Combat. He is only credited as ‘The Man’ and he is revealed to the audience, certainly not as tough or skilled ala Mad Max, instead he appears to just need, what he needs – in this case a real woman instead of the dissatisfying blow-up doll he has. ‘The Man’ lives an isolated existence in the few decrepit buildings which still occupy the bare landscape, which has been destroyed by an undeclared disaster. There are indications of an environmental disaster as the skies are no longer stable and it can suddenly rain fish or stones at any given time. The audience also soon learns that mankind no longer can speak and without any form of technology the few men who occupy the desolate land have to revert to savage and primitive ways. ‘The Man’ is no different; he has to do, what he has to do, even if that means cheat, steal and commit murder if necessary, it’s all a matter of survival.

    However ‘The Man’ serendipitously meets ‘The Doctor’ (Jean Bouise) who attends to the ‘The Man’s’ wounds and the two begin to form a genuine friendship. It is revealed ‘The Doctor’ is protecting (or is holding prisoner) the lone woman who occupy’s the landscape. Curiously ‘The Doctor's’ motivation is never clearly stated, she could in-fact be his daughter. ‘The Brute’ (Jean Reno) knows of the woman’s existence and while ‘The Doctor’ seems to have taken a shine to ‘The Man,’ ‘The Brute’ isn’t going to give up without a fight, as he too desperately wants to pro-create with the protected/imprisoned woman. It seems ‘The Doctor’ is playing some form of a matchmaker role, (he also paints cave images of Adam and Eve) and a ‘battle’ of wits and strength inadvertently develops between ‘The Man’ and ‘The Brute.’

     What’s unusual for the film is that Besson’s ‘The Man’ is hardly a heroic figure; he is just an ordinary ‘man’ and is unlike the prolific protagonists who are often found in the science fiction genre, as he is not trying to improve or evolve from the situation he is just coping day to day with the usual human frustrations. Equally Besson is toying with the science fiction landscape, removing the ability to communicate and any form of working technology and as everything is broken and destroyed, it can only be temporarily fixed, leading to more frustrations. As a feature film debut Le Dernier Combat demonstrated Besson’s ability to depict the humanity of his characters by building drama upon their situation; he is interested in their loss and their subsequent isolation, their own personal struggles as opposed to their actions. The empty world of Le Dernier Combat is without religion or without social and political order and it depicts everyman for himself and women as a possession and a commodity. It’s a pretty dire situation yet the feature film is also filtered with black comedy, particular in the slapstick scenes between ‘The Man’ and ‘The Brute.’ The feature film demonstrated a youthful Besson’s talent to create intelligent and engaging narratives and his then developing innovative visual style. Besson, it seems, was always destined to be a prolific, challenging and ground-breaking filmmaker.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The limited budget did not deter a young Besson from making a visually arresting feature film, which was filmed on location in Paris and Tunisia. Originally filmed in Black and White, Le Dernier Combat appears in the original 16x9 enhanced, 2.35:1 aspect ratio on a Blu-ray 25 Disc.

     The feature film is produced quite nicely on Blu-ray as the 1080p AVC transfer remains overall detailed and precise, yet due to the film’s age there are a fair few film artefacts, incidents of chroma and minor incidents of print damage, but certainly nothing severe enough to distract from the viewing experience.

     Being a black and white feature film, the monochrome palette is rendered stark and raw and as the contrast is strong, the whites appear ‘hot’ while the blacks appear 'crushed' at times; but again this is a minor issue as the Blu-ray presentation certainly surpasses any previous DVD presentations. Also a fair amount of grain is evident throughout the feature film, but I didn’t mind it and it also did not distract from the viewing experience. Edge-Enhancement is also apparent on occasion.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

There is no dialogue in this feature film, bar one scene. As such the soundtrack is composed solely of atmospheric sounds. The French LPCM 2.0 soundtrack, given it was produced in the 1980s is adequate; it is clean and features no incidences of hissing or distortion. The soundtrack isn’t particularly immersive due to the nature of the film. Le Dernier Combat was Eric Serra’s first feature film soundtrack (it is not used extensively in the feature film) and it is very much stuck in the 1980s, developed from the new wave synthpop sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Animated menu with scenes from the feature film, featuring Serra’s soundtrack. Twelve scene sections and access to the lone extra feature.

Theatrical Trailer

The Theatrical Trailer was created for a 1992 re-release of Le Dernier Combat referring to Besson’s subsequent feature films Subway, Le Grand Bleu and Nikita. The trailer is subtitled in English.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Madman Blu-ray release is identical to the UK Optimum Blu-ray release.

Summary

Le Dernier Combat is a classic sci-fi-western which makes for excellent viewing particularly considering recent releases in the post-apocalyptic genre The Road (2009) and The Book of Eli (2010). Le Dernier Combat is also a highly recommended to fans of Luc Besson. The Madman Blu-ray is overall a satisfactory effort and it is a great addition to the Besson ‘Directors Suite’ Blu-ray range – all that is needed now is Joan of Arc (1999) and Angle-A (2005).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35 Blu Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayMitsubishi Electric HC6800 1080P Home Theatre Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991)

Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991)

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Released 2-Jun-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Teaser Trailer-(2:08)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 79:16
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Claude Besson
Mario Cecchi Gori
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $39.95 Music Vincenzo Bellini
Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

As I write this review for Atlantis, an underwater documentary directed by Luc Besson in 1991, there is internet chatter regarding Besson’s next directorial effort - an upcoming ‘love-story’ to be filmed in Paris and London and shot in English. Nothing else is known about the upcoming production and it remains untitled, but the fact that it is being written about in the very early stages of development on various film websites indicates Besson’s importance as an international filmmaker; a tag which has seen Besson embraced by the audience but dismissed by the critics.

Atlantis was made after Besson’s Le grand bleu (1988), which was deemed one of the most financially successful films of the 1980s in France and Nikita (1990), an action-thriller which in France was again financially successful although the French critics did not take too kindly to Besson’s portrayal of wayward youth.

Atlantis came at a time at which it seemed Besson decided to make something for himself and he chose to document his love from the sea; an extension of what he had explored symbolically and philosophically in Le grand bleu. Atlantis is an experimental film which explores the sea and its various creatures and Besson’s camera follows them into their world with a sense of excitement and awe. However the title Atlantis refers to the lost city which perished beneath the sea - thus the film is not only about Besson documenting his love of the ocean, but also a quiet reminder to the audience to preserve and appreciate the sea and its marine life while we can.

The film is seamlessly presented in movements, with no voice over narration and is accompanied with an eclectic Eric Serra score which playfully ventures into different music genres (rock, disco, opera and funk). Atlantis is masterfully edited to the changing rhythms of Serra’s score, sometimes giving the appearance of the marine life ‘dancing’ to Serra’s songs. Serra’s score for Atlantis also features the beginnings of the soundscape of Léon (1994) and the Middle Eastern infused sound which developed for Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997).

Atlantis remains a unique film today despite the number of great underwater documentaries released in recent years, namely due to Serra’s score and Besson’s exquisite footage (which was filmed over three years - in Australia, Seychelles, The Bahamas and The Galapagos), magically edited together as a sort of deep sea opera rather than an educational documentary. Best recommended to fans of Besson and Serra.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Atlantis was filmed on 35mm film and the 1080p transfer on this Blu-ray 25 GB Disc is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced widescreen. The transfer all in all is very good. The level of detail of the deep sea imagery lit with lamps is quite good, as the picture remains quite clear, however the image can appear somewhat soft at times; particularly in the darker scenes the blacks somewhat appear washed out.

The naturally lit scenes in which the sun lights the water from above remain the most vibrant and clear, while the scenes shot in the deep sea are mostly tinged with a blue/green colour scheme.

Shadow detail is quite good and there is no major occurrence of print damage, however there is mild grain and the occurrence of mild noise artefacts perhaps due to a moderate bitrate.

The optional English subtitles in a clear white font automatically appear in the brief French language introduction and during the title cards.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

As mentioned, Serra’s score is of great importance when viewing Atlantis and here it is presented in French LPCM 2.0 audio soundtrack which is fine, considering the soundtrack was originally recorded in Dolby Digital Stereo SR and this is a music based title with limited environmental sounds included in the soundtrack (sounds of the marine life, the ocean, clapping, and city environment sounds). However the French Blu-ray of Atlantis (which is part of the Le grand bleu 3 Disc Blu-ray set), features the soundtrack as a DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack!).

The soundtrack is error-free, has nice bass response and remains an enveloping experience. Serra’s music is clear and the various instruments distinguishable. As mentioned Serra’s soundtrack is playful and diverse, and appears as movements. It’s quite the experience if you are a fan of Serra’s as he was free to create any type of mood and soundscape against Besson’s impressive imagery.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Imagery of the film is accompanied by Serra’s score. The Main Menu and Pop-up menu have the option of 12 scene selections and access to the trailer.

Teaser Trailer

A beautifully composed trailer of Besson descending from a helicopter into the open sea, armed with only an underwater camera as the whales nearby appear at the surface.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Atlantis appeared as part of the Extra Feature content on the Paramount France 3-Disc set Blu-ray release of Le grand bleu. It appeared on a single layered Blu-ray disc in 1080p, 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen with the soundtrack in DTS-HD 5.1. There are presumably no English subtitles on this release - for the brief spoken introduction.

The local release is identical to the UK Optimum Blu-ray release.

Summary

A simply gorgeous meditative film, but it’s not for everyone. Fans of Besson and Serra would be most pleased. The Madman Blu-ray is very good, presenting the film with a decent transfer and adequate audio option. A great addition to the Directors Suite range.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Saturday, July 03, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990)

La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-The Making of Nikita (20:37 - 576i)
Featurette-Tcheky Karyo on Besson (00:26 - 576i)
Featurette-The Sound of Nikita (04:38 - 576i)
Featurette-Theatrical Trailer (2:22 - 576)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 117:13
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Anne Parillaud
Marc Duret
Patrick Fontana
Alain Lathière
Laura Chéron
Jacques Boudet
Helene Aligier
Pierre-Alain de Garrigues
Patrick Pérez
Bruno Randon
Vincent Skimenti
Roland Blanche
Joseph Teruel
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Linear PCM 48/24 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles French Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Maybe now,
You've changed your point of view,
Maybe now, you see that life is stranger than you,
This is your time,
Tell me now,
Tell me how you feel inside,
Is it cold or is it sad?
The dark side of time


The Dark Side of Time - Eric Serra
.

     Luc Besson’s original femme fatale – the title character of Nikita a street-punk turned skilled cold-blooded assassin, is currently being revived for a new American television series, but today’s sleek and sophisticated Nikita (portrayed by Maggie Q) is a very different incarnation from where it all began. In Besson’s Nikita, his third feature film, actress Anne Parillaud (Besson’s first choice for the role) portrayed Nikita as a woman-child, caught between two worlds and two very different men; as ‘Marie’ she is free and childlike and the object of kind-hearted Marco’s (Jean-Hugues Anglade) affection while under the codename of ‘Josephine’ she is controlled and dominated by the State and her handler - the mysterious Bob (Tchéky Karyo).

     It’s not the first time Besson’s Nikita has been reincarnated, there was a previous American television series titled La Femme Nikita starring Peta Wilson and there was the American feature film remake of Nikita titled Point of No Return (1993) in the USA and The Assassin locally, directed by John Badham and starring Brigitte Fonda in the iconic role. Within Besson’s cinematic universe the character of Nikita somewhat went on to exist in Leon (1993), through the woman-child character of Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a protégé of professional assassin Leon (Jean Reno). An early incarnation of Reno’s character also appeared in Nikita as the ruthless Victor.

     Nikita was street-punk, a junkie, a drifter; at age 19 like many of Besson’s anti-heroes she lives defiantly on the fringe of society, yet she hasn’t the polished charm of criminal Fred of Subway (1985) or the absolute self-sacrifice of Leon – she just merely existed and is the embodiment of a dire portrayal of Generation Y. Nikita’s image in the opening shot - the lone female - is equal to male members of the gang. Nikita is on her way to commit a crime, and she along with her cohorts brazenly break into a chemist. In the midst of the robbery a shoot-out between police and the gang members (who are under the influence of illegal substances) breaks out. Nikita murders a policeman in cold-blood. She is arrested and receives life imprisonment; it is an existence her ‘live fast/die young’ attitude has bought her and Nikita the junkie is now emotionally ‘dead’. But Nikita is offered another existence; she can be reborn and she can be redeemed, yet only as Marie/Josephine working as a state assassin for the State Secret Police. This existence is not handed down to the youth as a choice (she is not driven by revenge as Matilda was, nor is she seeking refuge ala Leon), instead she is forced against her will to accept this position by her handler Bob, and over three years she trains relentlessly in fire-arms, self-defence and etiquette. Importantly Nikita is asked by Amande (the legendary Jeanne Moreau) not to forgo her womanhood but to take advantage of her femineity.

     On her 21st birthday Nikita is taken to Le Train Bleu by Bob; his gift to her is a gun. Nikita’s transformation into ‘Josephine’ is completed. With her cropped hair slicked back, fitted black dress and years of training she is placed in the midst of a mission unexpectedly, but she remains fearless and takes it in her stride. Yet her ‘graduation’ mission isn’t without complications (events which remove an ‘American’ sensibility of the film) and Nikita is forced into a dangerous situation in one of the most iconic scenes of the feature film.

     With each mission, Nikita is pushed physically and morally and this is what makes Nikita such an enduring character, particularly as her world as ‘Josephine’ collides with ‘Marie’, her dreamlike existence with supermarket cashier Marco where they can be and do whatever they choose. Nikita’s true existence as ‘Josephine’ is fraught with emotion. She is terrified when a hit goes wrong and a cleaner is brought in and her relationship with Bob reflects both teacher/student, but also hints at something more below the surface. Nikita maybe a trained killer but it is an existence she is significantly never at ease with and by the final scenes of the feature film only she makes her decisions, not Marco her lover or Bob her handler – only she independently and defiantly.

     Nikita is an ingenious character from Besson’s imagination. She is drawn from classic femme fatale characters of Film Noir; she is the image of female independence and yet Besson also portrays Nikita as a youngster who desires to be loved and cherished. Nikita is trained, polished and ‘looks’ the part of the assassin, yet within Besson’s stylish portrayals of her missions - Nikita appears to emotionally struggle when contemplating her violent actions, and often desperately tries to remain calm and collected. Besson depicts Nikita with heart and mind and she ultimately becomes the embodiment of childish wonder (as was Mathilda in Leon and Leloo in The Fifth Element) and a 'controlled' adult - who is forced into a situation she has no control over. Like many of Besson's protagonists - Nikita lives between the masculine and feminine stereotypes and although she is transformed into an elite assassin - she always remains Nikita - (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) thus her transformation was never truly 'complete' .

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Like other titles in this Directors Suite range I am satisfied with this 1080p transfer, as it is much better than previous DVD presentations of the feature film. The transfer is MPEG-4 AVC encoded on a single-layer BD 25 disc, in its original 16x9 2.35:1 aspect ratio. There are no major compression artefacts and grain is evident on the transfer, which I did not mind.

     There are very few evident film artefacts and black levels remain clear and solid, however digital noise and edge enhancement is apparent on occasion. Contrast is strong and the colour palette is bold and vibrant, while skin textures remain natural.

     Given the age of the film this is a great transfer and thankfully without any dreaded DNR issues. Optional English subtitles which have an accurate translation of the dialogue of the film are included and appear in the lower part of the widescreen frame.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The single audio track on offer is a LPCM 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue is clear and there are no issues of lip-synching or distortion. The soundtrack is overall encompassing, but the due to the limited bass response the soundtrack can sound somewhat ‘hollow’. But overall this is a decent soundtrack for the action orientated feature film.

     Eric Serra’s synthesizer score sounds great and forms the excellent title song of the soundtrack ‘The Dark Side of Time’ - which was released as a single in France. Highlights of the soundtrack include the emotional instrumental ‘Tipokmop’ and the driving introduction to Victor – ‘Let’s Welcome Victor’.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

     Animated menu featuring the soundtrack and scenes from the feature film. Like other releases in this Directors Suite range there are only 12 chapters (I wish the chapters were more extensive), access to the audio/subtitle options and extra feature content.

     The extra feature content was previously available on a MGM US Region 1 Special Edition DVD release of the film.

Making of Nikita

     Filmed in 2003 with interviews from the key cast and crew and as expected no Besson in sight. Still, it’s a nice addition, particularly to hear from Anne Parillaud who received a César Award for her brilliant performance as the title character.

Tchéky Karyo on Luc Besson

     This clip is really 26 seconds – it is not an error!

The Sound of Nikita

     Brief interview segment with Eric Serra explaining the development of the soundtrack

Production Featurettes

Three half-minute featurettes - The Bedroom (0:33), Training Room (0:33) and Vanity Room (0:33, which appear to be deleted scenes from the Making of.

Theatrical Trailer

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Identical to the Optimum UK release except the local release has a LPCM 5.1 soundtrack while the UK release has a LPCM 2.0 Stereo soundtrack.

     The main competitor is the Sony Pictures US Blu-ray release, which includes a French Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 but NO extra feature content. It apparently has a superior transfer as-well.

     The French Paramount Blu-ray release which has the same transfer as the Optimum UK release and the Madman AU release includes a French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 soundtrack with English subtitles and additionally "Cesar Ceremony" footage (5 mins) and the Theatrical Trailer.

Summary

    Nikita is an iconic action-thriller from master director Luc Besson and features a raw, emotional, driven performance from Anne Parillaud and a classic soundtrack from Eric Serra. The local release holds up pretty well in contrast to the International Blu-ray releases.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Friday, September 17, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic BD35, using HDMI output
DisplayMitsubishi Electric HC6800 1080P Home Theatre Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988)

Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988)

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Released 2-Jun-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternative Version-The Big Blue (Original Theatrical Cut) (137:26) 16x9 1080p
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-L'Aventure du Grand Bleu (97:00) 4:3 576p
Teaser Trailer-French Teaser Trailer (0:43) 4:3 576p
Theatrical Trailer-American Theatrical Trailer (1:47) 4:3 576p
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1988
Running Time 168:20
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Rosanna Arquette
Jean-Marc Barr
Jean Reno
Paul Shenar
Sergio Castellitto
Jean Bouise
Marc Duret
Griffin Dunne
Andréas Voutsinas
Valentina Vargas
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $39.95 Music Bill Conti
Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (640Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

No regrets, no tears.

Only a strange feeling, slipping without falling.

I'll try another world, where the water is not blue anymore, another reality.

Oh, my baby I love you, My lady blue.

I'm looking for something that I'll never reach.

I seek eternity.

Eric Serra - My Lady Blue

As a child I distinctly remember how watching Le grand bleu 'felt' - the film sparked my imagination and it was perhaps the moment when I realised films are more than just entertainment, they are works of art and expression (I actually wrote about the film as ten year-old for a school assignment - wish I could find what I had written - however I'm sure the sentiment is the same, years later).

Luc Besson's work certainly defined my childhood and Le grand bleu is a film, I can say with certainty, that never quite left me; it's collective characters, images and sounds feel like memories - ghosts and shadows of a not so distant past. As a child I watched Le grand bleu repeatedly, with growing wide-eyes and a completely open heart, and the film somewhat imprinted itself on me and it has always remained that way.

Le grand bleu is loosely based on the friendship and rivalry between the late French free diver Jacques Mayol and Italian pioneer of the extreme sport of free diving, Enzo Maiorca (renamed Enzo Molinari in the film), but the film is also very much about Besson and his desire to be one with the sea. Besson is the son of Club Med scuba diving instructors and he grew up in various tourist resorts in Italy and Greece, surrounded by the endless sea and it's magic and secrets beneath the surface. Besson, then a budding marine biologist, unfortunately suffered a diving accident at age 17 which prevented him from ever diving again.

"Don't look at Jacques as if he was a human being, he comes from another planet"

Jacques Mayol is mesmerising, as portrayed by Jean-Marc Barr as a fish-out-of- water. He stumbles and falters on land, but in the vast open sea he is free and at peace with his "family". Mayol has the unusual ability to adjust his heart rate and breathing patterns in the water replicating that of a dolphin; he is more fish than man. Enzo Molinari, touchingly portrayed by a young Jean Reno, is a proud amiable Italian (with a memorable deep voice and phrasing pattern) who clearly cares for Mayol, yet delights in their rivalry; he knows Mayol will always be his true competition as a free diver.

The sea is a very different beast for Mayol and Molinari - Mayol sees the sea as another world, a world which he clearly loves, while the dry land above is a place he doesn't have any emotional or physical ties to, until the arrival of the wide-eyed Johana Baker, portrayed by Rosanna Arquette, who literally turns Mayol's life upside down. Molinari, who is the world champion free diver wants to conquer the sea - does not have the spiritual and emotional connections to the sea that the otherworldly Mayol has, as Mayol's father died in a diving accident when he was a child; for him the sea is a place of love and death. Molinari is a confident man, with a big personality and love of life and family, which is at odds with the young, inexperienced, isolated and perhaps immature Mayol, who is desperately trying to define himself on land.

Mayol's ensuing problematic relationship with Baker forces Mayol to come face to face with his true love; she asks him what does it feel like when he is diving and he tells her once he is in the depths of the bottomless sea, in the darkness of Le grand bleu (the French nickname for the Mediterranean Sea) "You have to find a good reason to come back up..."

Le grand bleu is a film which has received cult status over the years and with this Blu-ray release hopefully the film will be embraced by a new audience.

(This review is written in reference to Le grand bleu- Version Longue. Both this extended version and the French Theatrical Version (137:26) of the film are available on this Blu-ray release, however the U.S version, which was severely edited, features an alternative score from Bill Conti and an alternative ending , is absent from this release).

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Transfer Quality

Video

Le grand bleu is presented in 1080p 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer on a single sided, dual-layer Blu-ray 50 disc. The film features some decent black levels and remains mostly artefact free. Le grand bleu was filmed largely on the Cyclades Islands, Corsica, Taormina, U.S Virgin Islands and Chattanooga and the underwater photography is simply beautiful.

The print is thankfully damage free and the natural lighting, crisp shots of the ocean and sun soaked scenery remain visually arresting.

I've seen the film on a variety of formats and this transfer is simply one of the best I've seen, despite the somewhat constant low to moderate bitrate (16 -18 Mb/s) - which is probably attributed to the fact that there are both versions of Le grand bleu - which both have a run-time of more than 2 hours each are on this 50 GB disc, as well as the 97 minute "Making-of".

There are very mild noise artefacts and evidence of grain on occasion but this is a very minor issue. In short, this is an excellent transfer which certainly makes for enjoyable viewing - absolutely gorgeous.

The optional English subtitles appear in a clear and crisp white font.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Le grand bleu was filmed primarily in English (French and Italian are briefly spoken) and there are two soundtracks available on this Blu-ray, the original English Soundtrack and a dubbed French soundtrack - Reno and Barr voice the French dubbed soundtrack also. Both soundtracks are 5.1 Dolby Digital (640 Kb/s) soundtracks and remain error free. Dialogue is clear and distinct. Bass is moderate and the soundtrack remains a somewhat encompassing experience.

Upon finding out the original English soundtrack on this Blu-ray was a 5.1 Dolby Digital (640 Kb/s) soundtrack, I was initially disappointed as the French Blu-ray features the French dubbed soundtrack as a DTS-HD Master soundtrack; however, I would rather have the original English soundtrack in a standard format instead of the dubbed French soundtrack in a superior format.

Eric Serra's score in Le grand bleu is a magnum opus and works masterfully with the impressive visuals. I would have loved to hear it as a DTS-HD Master soundtrack however only as the original English soundtrack.

Serra's score is light and gentle in a calypso rhythmic sense at first and then builds to an emotional climax which incorporates various percussion instruments, saxophones, guitars, deeper synthesised tones and the sounds of the ocean.

It's a brave emotional score, with all the hallmarks of Serra's eclectic soundscape and was bizarrely dropped from the U.S version of Le grand bleu for a conventional score by Bill Conti. The film concludes with Serra's infectious My Lady Blue - which was released as a single in France.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

The main menu is composed of one the memorable sequences/montages of Le grand bleu. The main menu and pop-up menu includes 12 scene selection options, sound and subtitle options and access to the extra features.

Alternative Version

The main extra feature is the Original French Theatrical version of Le grand bleu (137:27) which is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer. The audio options, which have to be accessed manually, are an English Linear PCM soundtrack and a French (Dubbed) DTS Stereo soundtrack.

Featurette-L'Aventure de Grand Bleu

The extensive making of (in French with English subtitles) is an hour and a half of production footage accompanied with Serra's score. Includes footage from the various sets of the large production, which give an insight into Besson's directing style, and features interviews and narration from Besson, Barr and Reno.

This is a nice addition to this Blu-ray as Besson still refrains from recording commentaries for his feature films. After watching this making-of, there is the realisation that such a film will never be made in this day and age of computer generated effects. It's a great shame and another reason to embrace Le grand bleu so many years after its release.

Theatrical Trailers

The French Teaser is an absolute delight, a single mysterious shot with Besson's name - it is certainly ambitious and iconic, considering the director was not even 30 at the time the film was being made. However the U.S trailer opts to delve into the love story of the feature film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Madmans Directors Suite release of Le grand bleu has many positives and few negatives, particularly in comparison with some of the international Blu-ray releases of Le grand bleu.

Firstly the French Paramount Blu-ray release is a three disc set. Le grand bleu (Version Longue) is featured on the first Blu-ray as a stand-alone feature, with the only option the Dubbed French DTS HD Master soundtrack; no subtitles are included. The second Blu-ray disc is Atlantis, directed by Luc Besson, which has been released by Madman as part of the Directors Suite title range as a stand-alone title. The final disc is a DVD which includes the making-of (which is included on the Madman release) without English subtitles and it also includes the 41 minute 'Festival de Cannes' press conference, which is also in French without English subtitles.

The UK Optimum Blu-ray release like the French release only includes the dubbed French language as a PCM stereo soundtrack - presumably with English subtitles. The extra feature content on this release is identical to the Madman release; The French theatrical version of Le grand bleu, the 90 minute Making-of, L'Aventure de Grand Bleu, and the French teaser trailer and U.S theatrical trailer.

In comparison, the Madman release is the clear winner as it includes the original English language soundtrack, but unfortunately in a standard audio format. Both the theatrical and extended versions of the film are also included; however on the same Blu-ray. Extra feature content is comprehensive and is only missing the 41 minute 'Festival de Cannes' Press Conference, which is included on the French Paramount Blu-ray release on a separate DVD with Atlantis. The omission of Atlantis as an extra feature and sold as a standalone Blu-ray is debatable (it was also released separately in the UK) but as a whole the current Madman release is a winner.

Summary

Le grand bleu is one of my favourite films; that is not say others may not find flaws with it, but for me personally this is a truly great film from a then young, gifted, ambitious and confident director who chose to make a very personal film and continued to find great acclaim in France and cult status outside France for his defiant and lively imagination.

What makes Le grand bleu a grand achievement is the haunting final scene - few filmmakers would have the courage to say true to their character.

The Madman Blu-ray release should be commended but unfortunately it is not definitive. It includes the original English language soundtrack, but unfortunately in a standard audio format. Both the theatrical and extended versions of the film are also included however on the same Blu-ray. Extra feature content is comprehensive and is only missing the 41 minute 'Festival de Cannes' Press Conference, which is included on the French Paramount Blu-ray release on a separate DVD with Atlantis. The omission of Atlantis as an extra feature and sold as a standalone Blu-ray (as it was in the UK also) is debatable but as a whole the current Madman release is a winner.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Thursday, July 01, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985)

Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985)

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Released 17-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 102:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Isabelle Adjani
Christopher Lambert
Richard Bohringer
Michel Galabru
Jean-Hugues Anglade
Jean Bouise
Jean-Pierre Bacri
Jean-Claude Lecas
Pierre-Ange Le Pogam
Jean Reno
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     In Susan Hayward’s book Luc Besson, it is cited that the script for Subway (1985), a hyperkinetic exploration of the Paris metro and its underground community of wayward characters, was actually a young Luc Besson’s first completed screenplay; he wrote the script for Le dernier combat (1983), a post-apocalyptic, somewhat comic tale of men reverting to primitive and barbaric urges in the absence of women, after writing the script for Subway. However Besson opted for Le dernier combat to be his debut feature film, as the director envisioned Subway as “too big and heavy to handle for a first feature film” (p 32).

     Nevertheless, only a few years after the production of Le dernier combat, Subway was made by a now critically revered Besson. He was brimming with confidence after he had received critical acclaim in France and abroad for the daring, relentless and darkly-comic Le dernier combat which won several film prizes, including a nomination for Besson as best debut-director at the 1984 César Awards. Certainly an impressive feat for the then 25 year old filmmaker, who knew Subway would become not only his calling card as an International filmmaker, but also a chance for him to let loose and make something without the constraints of a restricted budget. If Le dernier combat was the film which made the industry aware of Besson, Subway became the film which set Besson apart and defined his legacy, as Subway swiftly became a cult-classic particularly in English-speaking territories and alongside Jean-Jaques Bieneix’s Diva (1981) and Betty Blue (1986) have shaped modern French cinema. However on release Subway was widely criticised for the "meagre scenario and lack of characterisation. Described as a 'clip' (music video) over-extended to a feature length film" (Austin, Guy. Contemporary French Cinema. Manchester UP 1996. p 126).

     I came to view Subway unsuspectingly as a kid, in the good old days of SBS when Des Mangan hosted Cult Movies and for me Subway initially seemed like a live-action cyber-punk influenced anime, but now I notice it’s also an intelligent film with a number of homages to Jean-Luc Godard’s classic À bout de soufflé, (1960) particularly as Christopher Lambert’s youthful and rebellious Fred is cut from the same cloth as the romantic, suave, criminal anti-hero Michel Poiccard (effortlessly embodied by a young Jean-Paul Belmondo in the 1960 film). Fred is a criminal the audience are introduced to in the midst of an impressive car chase. Dressed in a tuxedo, blond-haired Fred (Sting according to Hayward was Besson's first choice for the role) appears to have stolen something quite valuable. Fred has little concern for his safety, as his well-dressed pursuers try to run him off the road; he instead has his sights set only on a beloved cassette-tape, featuring a saxophone heavy instrumental pop tune - by Eric Serra no less (The UK TV version of Subway included Propaganda's "The Murder of Love" as the track Fred was searching for in the opening scene) (p 33). When Fred finally manages to play the cassette-tape, he claps his hands in child-like excitement and wears an infectious grin.

     As the chase weaves it’s way into recognisable Parisian streets, Fred has little concern for the safety of others; he is reckless, impulsive and yet remains extremely likeable. Fred loses the disgruntled goons on foot and takes refuge in the nearby Paris Métro. What follows is a very loose narrative as Fred meets several memorable characters who make up an underground community of individuals who can live as they desire and do not have to obey the laws of the world above. Two major events occur in the Paris Métro; one is Fred meets Helena, portrayed by the exquisite Isabelle Adjani, (Besson had directed the title track music video for Adjani's album Pull-Marine - which was written and produced by Serge Gainsbourg - who Besson also directed Mon Légionnaire for) who he falls madly in love with and who also happens to be the trophy wife of the gangster. Helena is depicted as an unhappy woman, a sad princess, emotionally and physically imprisoned within her bourgeois existence.

     Whilst cleverly evading the desperate police in the Paris Métro on numerous occasions, particularly Inspector Batman (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Robin (Jean-Claude Lecas) and hiding from the ruthless gangsters, Fred unusually finds the time to also manage a pretty neat band within the Paris Métro, composed of the ‘outlaws’ who exist only within the underground, including ‘The Roller-Skater’ (Jean-Hugues Anglade), ‘The Drummer’ (Jean Reno), ‘The Bassist’ (Eric Serra) and ‘The Singer’ (Arthur Simms). Subway is an awfully fun film, it's visceral and very entertaining and Besson makes the underground setting appear wide and spacious as opposed to claustrophobic; there are excellent chase scenes in the Métro which demonstrates this. Subway is a film very much set in the 80s, and it wears its sub-culture influences as a badge of honour. Subway is a charming modern day fairytale with a Prince and Princess in Fred and Helena and their not so easy love affair, surrounded by a ‘band’ of unforgettable characters and evil goons who want to bring them down. It’s a defiant Besson trying his best to push the medium of cinema and make something fantastic, comic and visually arresting, an artistic sensibility he would revisit with the production of The Fifth Element (1997).

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Transfer Quality

Video

     I have to admit I am quite happy with this 1080p transfer. I know some may describe it as soft or perhaps ridden with grain/noise but it is certainly much better than any DVD presentation I’ve seen.
The facts are it is MPEG-4 AVC encoded on a single-layer BD 25 disc, in its original 16x9 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
In regards to the single layer BD 25 disc; this is not an issue, as the transfer has no major compression artefacts.
Grain is evident on the transfer which I did not mind; there are very few film artefacts and black levels remain clear and solid however digital noise is apparent on occasion.
Contrast is strong and colour, which is quite important within the production and costume design of Subway, remains bold and vibrant, while skin textures remain natural.
It’s a nice transfer all-round, given the age of the film and thankfully without any dreaded DNR issues.
Optional English subtitles, which have an accurate translation of the dialogue of the film are included and appear in the lower part of the widescreen frame.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The only soundtrack available is a French LPCM 48 2-channel mono soundtrack and I’m happy to report that it is error-free with no issues regarding distortion of any sort; it’s actually quite a clean soundtrack.
Dialogue remains clear and crisp and if you have seen Subway you will know it’s Eric Serra’s infectious, memorable score at the front and centre of the soundtrack and here the music is nicely produced with nice bass response and depth. The soundtrack is epic - for example the opening scene score , the Congo Bass scene and spawned several 'songs' including Its Only Mystery featuring the late American Singer Arthur Simms which was released as a single in France and (spoiler waring) Guns and People.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

     Madman well done! A truly wonderful animated menu which is subtle and completely in check with the tone of the film! Really impressive! The usual options are on offer; 12 scene selections, subtitle options and access to the lone extra feature a Theatrical Trailer.

Theatrical Trailer

     The Theatrical Trailer is in standard definition.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Madman release is identical to the UK Optimum Region B Locked Blu-ray.

     In France this title was release by Paramount. It is also a BD 25, however it is Region-Free and features a French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack with optional English and French subtitle options. The transfer is described as almost identical to the Optimum release, which is identical to the local Madman release.

Summary

     Subway is a great cult-classic, produced nicely on this Madman Blu-ray. It’s a fun, modern fantasy and features great performances from a youthful Christopher Lambert and always wonderful Isabelle Adjani and at its helm Luc Besson at his quirky, outlandish best.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35, using HDMI output
DisplayMitsubishi Electric HC6800 1080P Home Theatre Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997)

Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997)

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Released 17-Aug-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sci-Fi Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Cast
Featurette-Alien Element
Featurette-Fashion Element
Featurette-Digital Element
Featurette-Visual Element
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 125:53
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Bruce Willis
Gary Oldman
Ian Holm
Milla Jovovich
Chris Tucker
Luke Perry
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $39.95 Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    OK, I am not going to write any more about this wonderful film. The focus here should be on the fact that this is now the third release of this film on Blu-ray locally, following the rubbish one from Sony , the much better one from Sony and now this version in the Madman Director's Suite. This is the first Blu-ray edition to include significant extras which are somewhat similar (but not the same) as the extras on the  Collector's Edition DVD, which I reviewed a few years ago. If you are really keen we also have archive reviews of the  original DVD version and  the superbit DVD version.

    The best way to explain where this edition sits is a three way comparison between the most recent Blu-ray from Sony, this Blu-ray and the Collector's Edition DVD (although it is only useful to compare extras with the DVD edition).

  Remastered Sony Blu-ray Madman Director's Suite Blu-ray Sony Collector's Edition DVD
Video AVC Codec. Excellent quality for a film of this age. Based on screen shots this seems to be the same transfer as the remastered Sony Release or if not, very similar. It's certainly the best I have seen this film look. N/A
Audio English Linear PCM 5.1 (plus DD5.1 and the same repeated in Spanish) English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 only (despite what the case says). N/A
Extras Fact Track Only Making Of (not on any other local edition)

Lots of Featurettes from the Collector's Edition (see below for details),

Theatrical Trailer (not on any other local edition).

Does NOT include the Fact Track or many other extras from The Collector's Edition (see list in next column)

Fact Track plus the following items in addition to the extras ported to the Madman Blu-ray.
  • Loads of test footage including Milla Jovovich, costumes, creatures etc
  • Chris Tucker featurette
  • The Diva featurette & test footage
  • Poster Gallery

    So, what does all this mean? Well, completists will want to hang onto the Collector's Edition for the extras which have not moved over. The most important of these is probably the featurette on The Diva as the Chris Tucker one is more annoying than interesting. The test footage is interesting but you won't watch it more than once. However, this is certainly the best combination to date for local buyers as it includes a marvellous video transfer in 1080p, a great audio track in lossless Dolby TrueHD and the most important of the extras available including a Making Of which has not appeared locally before. In short, this is the best edition to date (until the next one).

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent for a film of this age and is based on a very clean print (unlike some previous Blu-ray releases of this film).

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is encoded using the AVC codec. Leaving aside the obvious increase in definition and clarity this version is based on a cleaner print than the Collector's Edition DVD (and that was much better than other versions).

    The picture was very clear and sharp throughout certainly the best I have ever seen this film look. Shadow detail was excellent. The colour was excellent, very vibrant with the colours of this wonderful movie jumping off the screen. Flesh tones were very natural.

    There was some very minor telecine wobble as mentioned in our review of the previous Blu-ray but this is so minor as to be nearly invisible to all but the most pernickety viewers.

    There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which were clear and easy to read.

       

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is also excellent. This is the best I have heard this movie sound.

    This DVDs contains one audio option, an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack despite the fact that the case refers to it being LPCM. According to reviews of Blu-rays with both soundtracks the difference is not noticeable between the LPCM and TrueHD options.

    Dialogue was very clear and easy to understand.

    The wonderful music by Eric Serra really jumps out on this soundtrack.

    The surround speakers were used really well throughout for atmospherics, crowd scenes, action scenes, gunfire, landing spacecraft, etc. The DVD sound was pretty good for this film but this Blu-ray is so much better especially in the rear speakers (and the definition of the dialogue). The subwoofer was also used really well throughout during gunfights, explosions, the approach of the black star and much more.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     A nice selection of extras which includes one important new extra for our local region and the majority of the important stuff from The Collector's Edition (see above for full comparison). Despite the case listing them as standard definition, my Blu-ray player sees them as 1080/24p using the AVC codec. The extras ported from the Collector's Edition are longer than the PAL versions on those discs, which were shortened by PAL speedup. There are no subtitles on the extras.

Menu

    The menu includes action and music.

The Making of The Fifth Element (25:51)

    This is a great addition which has not previously appeared on any local release of this film (to my knowledge). Luc Besson hosts this very interesting making of featurette which includes information about casting, shooting, stunts, visual effects, costumes, the director's approach to the actors and lots of behind the scenes footage including outtakes. Definitely worth watching. 1.33:1.

The Star Element - Bruce Willis (4:30)

    An interview with Bruce Willis probably from closer to the time the movie was shot than now. He discusses acting, his role choices and working with Luc Besson. Not bad but no major insights either. Presented non 16x9 enhanced.

The Star Element - Milla Jovovich (13:20)

    A more contemporary interview with Milla Jovovich discussing the audition process, screen tests, working with the director, rehearsals, learning Leeloo's language, problems with the bright Orange hair, costumes, how she coped with the action sequences and how the role affected her career. Quite interesting.

The Alien Element - Mondoshawans - Featurette (8:34)

    An interesting featurette about how these creatures were designed and built. If you don't recall, these are the good guys. Also covers the strange requirements for the actors who would work inside them. Includes interviews with Nick Dudman, the Creature Effects Supervisor and others. Presented 16x9 enhanced.

The Alien Element - Mangalores - Featurette (10:12)

    A featurette on the design and build for the bad guys. Again includes interviews with Nick Dudman, the Creature Effects Supervisor and others. Interesting Stuff.

The Alien Element - Picasso - Featurette (4:28)

    A featurette on the design and construction of Zorg's strange little pet, Picasso. Covers the animatronics, silicon skin and how it interacted with Gary Oldman. Interesting.

The Alien Element - Strikers - Featurette (3:12)

    A featurette on a creature which did not make the final cut of the film. These were the garbage workers who were on strike causing the large pile of garbage at the airport. Fascinating how much work went into something which got dropped.

The Fashion Element - Featurette (8:06)

    An interview with Jean-Paul Gaultier about his designs for the film. Seems to have been recorded at the same time as the Bruce Willis interview. He is quite forthright and covers how he found working for someone else, costume budgets in films and his design process. Includes some of his preliminary sketches. Definitely of interest.

The Digital Element (10:13)

    A featurette covering the work done on the film by Digital Domain. Includes interviews with the Visual Effects Supervisor, Mark Stetson, and other crew members. Covers how the various stunts were shot including Leeloo's jump and the use of miniatures for New York. Good stuff.

The Visual Element - Featurette (19:11)

    A very interesting featurette about the two comic book authors, Mezieres & Moebius, whose work was an influence on Luc Besson's thinking about design. He decided to employ them to do the production design for the film. This featurette includes interviews with both of them about the design process. Presented 16x9 enhanced. Newly made in 2004.

Theatrical Trailer (1:33)

Other Madman Trailers

        

 

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This edition pretty much makes our local Blu-ray release the best available globally, despite not having the LPCM option. It is the first Blu-ray release with any significant extras, so bravo to Madman! UPDATE : Based on user comment (see below) it seems there is a German release with a very significant set of extras.

Summary

    A great sci-fi action comedy from Luc Besson.

    The video quality is excellent for a film of this age. The audio quality is excellent.

    The set has a good quality collection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Lots of extras in German edition. - REPLY POSTED
3rd Version? - Shane A REPLY POSTED
Video quality - Same or better? - REPLY POSTED
Video quality identical to Sony - Tom (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
Does this version's video look like...? -

Overall | Last Battle, The (Le Dernier Combat) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1983) | Atlantis: A World Beyond Words (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1991) | La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990) | Big Blue, The (Grand Bleu, Le) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1988) | Subway (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1985) | Fifth Element, The (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1997) | Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

Leon: The Professional (Léon) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1994)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternative Version-Theatrical Cut (110:12) (1080p)
Featurette-10 Year Retrospective (25:09) (576p)
Featurette-Natalie Portman: Starting Young (13:49) (576p)
Featurette-Jean Reno: The Road to Leon (12:24) (576p)
Theatrical Trailer-Trailer (1:48) (576p)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 132:52
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jean Reno
Gary Oldman
Natalie Portman
Danny Aiello
Peter Appel
Willi One Blood
Don Creech
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $39.95 Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

With the release of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, some film critics were up in arms about the superhero (but not superhuman) character of Hit-Girl – a merciless, pink-haired, eleven year-old vigilante, who is trained in every weapon imaginable (Balisong knives being a favourite), and advanced martial arts by her affectionate father (superhero alias -Big Daddy), a former cop hell-bent on revenge. Roger Ebert famously caused an internet storm with his one-star review of Kick-Ass, in which he declared the film "morally reprehensible," as the bloodshed was not depicted as "comic violence" and the film's "human beings" (as opposed to superhuman superheros), were nothing more then;

“... video-game targets. Kill one, and you score. They're dead, you win. When kids in the age range of this movie's home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.”

Street-wise, foul-mouthed Hit-Girl, whose real-name is Mindy, happened to remind me of Mathilda (Nathalie Portman) of Léon, a wise, tortured, chain-smoking woman in a frail child’s body, who becomes simultaneously a mother figure and adopted daughter to solitary, childlike Léon (Jean Reno), a hitman. Ebert had the same reaction to Mathilda, as he did with Hit-Girl; he stated in his original review of Léon:

“... at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action ... it seems to exploit the youth of the girl without really dealing with it.”

Léon is composed of shadows from director/writer Luc Besson’s feature films and personal life. The title character of Léon was developed from Reno’s ruthless ‘Victor the Cleaner’ character, who briefly appeared in a memorable sequence in Nikita (1990), a film which detailed the transformation of teenage junkie and criminal, Nikita, who while imprisoned for life, is recruited to work in French Intelligence. Nikita’s transformation into a skilled assassin mirrors that of Mathilda’s; however Nikita was forced into the trade, while Mathilda simply has the hunger for vengeance. Both Nikita’s and Mathilda’s hardened youth is comprised of seedy characters, criminal activity and bloodshed, and conversely they are also depicted as naive, particularly when it comes to matters of the heart; Nikita struggles with her relationship with her Parisian boyfriend, who remains oblivious to her profession, while Mathilda desperately wants to be loved, and consequently teases and dangerously flirts with a bewildered, emotionally-repressed Léon. According to French actress Maïwenn Le Besco, she was the inspiration for the character of Mathilda - she has stated she met Besson as a twelve year-old, and years later would begin a relationship with the director. Le Besco appears in the introduction of Léon and most notably as the Diva in The Fifth Element (1997).

"Leon, what exactly do you do for a living?."

Léon, who had to suddenly leave Italy as a teenager, found refuge in New York City's 'Little Italy'. For many years he has lived a simple, uncomplicated, isolated life and has become a master of his profession as a self-described “cleaner.” Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob boss who took Léon under his wing as a youth, is his only human contact. Despite his extraordinary ability to complete his ‘hits’ with great precision, Léon unusually remains an innocent character for the audience - (that's the sheer beauty of Reno's somber, sad-eyed performance); he consumes only milk, appears to be a great fan of American dancer Gene Kelly and attends to his houseplant with great care and patience. Léon dresses himself simply and efficiently in wool cap, sunglasses and a long wool coat, yet his trousers appear slightly too short for his tall frame.

"I am already grown up, I just get older."

Léon’s systematic and calm life is disturbed by the entrance of young black-eyed, bloody-nosed Mathilda, who tearfully pleads for Léon’s help as she returns home to see the immediate aftermath of her abusive family massacred by DEA agents, a 'hit' led by the drug-addled Norman "Stan" Stansfield (Gary Oldman). This memorable scene was replicated in The Fifth Element (1997), in which Leeloo begs Korben Dallas , with the few English words she has just learned, to help her escape the authorities. Mathilda openly grieves for her toddler brother, the only family member she truly loved (she refers to her parents as half-mother and father), and after learning her quiet neighbour is in-fact a hitman, she convinces him to help her take out Stanfield and his cronies, offering to help Léon as a maid and teach him to read in return. Léon understandably hesitates at first, but succumbs to the charms of his eager student, teaching her how to handle various weapons and complete a mission, yet he remains unaware of her growing confidence and immediate need to enact revenge. Her subsequent actions force both herself and Léon in great danger as Stansfield, a sociopath, begins to lose his grip on reality.

"Death is... whimsical... today."

The sharp-suited chaotic Stansfield, depending on one’s view, is either one of the greatest corrupt cops to grace the cinema screen or is simply over-acted by the great Oldman, who at the time was typecast in a number of antagonist roles in American Cinema – Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991), Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992) and Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993). Oldman's memorable performance as Stansfield, is full of short, detached, staccato-like moments - truly unpredictable, the performance is all about uneven beats and rhythms (Stansfield greatly admires classical music) - a sensibility which can be found in Nicolas Cage's brilliant performance as the similarly drug-addled, corrupt cop Terence McDonagh in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans . Stansfield through the course of the film descends into into a state of hysteria, as he loses his confidence and judgment, and equally seems amused and baffled by the masterful Léon and his erratic protégé/sidekick – an odd couple, who when together on-screen bear a visual resemblance to The Tramp and The Kid of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid (1921). The triangle formed by these opposing characters slowly closes in, creating an explosive finale.

The difference between the Version Intégrale (Complete Version) cut of the film which is the default option on this Blu-ray (questionably referred to as an Extended Directors Cut on the cover art) and the Theatrical Cut is a number of scenes, which further developed the complex relationship between Léon and Mathilda, scenes which were originally cut from the film as they made US audiences uncomfortable during test screenings. Said scenes include Mathilda lying about her age, Mathilda threatening to shoot herself, a montage which depicts a series of training and missions accompanied by Bjork’s Venus As A Boy, Mathilda celebrating her first hit by getting drunk, Léon detailing why he had to leave Italy and Mathilda asking Léon to be her first lover.

"Léon, I think I'm kinda falling in love with you."

The relationship between Léon and Mathilda is multifaceted; she becomes his partner in crime, his teacher and most importantly his friend; she is the daughter he never had and he undoubtedly genuinely loves her. While for Mathilda, Léon becomes the loving father she never had and the friend she could confide in; ultimately the brother she could care for, in place of the one who was brutally taken away from her. The instinctive protective nature of Léon's relationship with Mathilda, mirrors that of Travis Bickle and Iris in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) and reverses the unspoken love between Bob and Nikita in Nikita. Jim Jarmusch referenced the friendship between Léon and Mathilda in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (1999), with the depiction of the teacher/student relationship between Ghost Dog, a similarly philosophical and spiritual hitman and Pearline, a curious impressionable young girl, (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) who in the final scenes of the film, looks to follow in Ghost Dog's footsteps - likewise for years there have been internet rumours of a sequel to Léon, in which adult Mathilda would supposedly become a 'cleaner' - a scenario which wouldn't quite work, as within the film Léon wanted Mathilda to enjoy her life and given the ending of Nikita, I'm not sure Besson would be keen on it either. For the record Besson and Portman have both stated there are no plans for a sequel to Léon. Curiously though Besson wrote and produced the upcoming Colombiana (2011), which details the story of Cat (Zoe Saldana), who as a child witnesses the death of her parents and as an adult becomes a professional assassin.

"I want love, or death. That's it."

Mathilda's understanding of love, lust and sex is juvenile, and obviously ripped from the pages of teen magazines, trashy soap operas and Hollywood movies, yet importantly her inappropriate behaviour gradually changes through the course of the film. Compare the introduction of the film, in which Mathilda sits knowingly swinging her legs above the stairwell, her large dreamy eyes intently follow Léon as he nondescriptly makes his way to his apartment and questions him "Is life always this hard, or is it just when you're a kid?". Within this scene it seems as if Mathilda is hopeful someone, anyone for that matter, will whisk her away from her cruel family - yet with the final scenes of Léon, the audience are looking at a changed woman. No longer is Mathilda a child with a violent, unkind past but a lone woman, with harsh eyes who now understands the significance of life and death; her appearance visually recalls the tortured eyes of Jim Graham at the conclusion of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun (1987), as the audience knows these young characters are never going to be the same again, their childhoods are now a distant past.

"It's always the same thing. It's when you start to become really afraid of death that you learn to appreciate life."

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Transfer Quality

Video

The 1080p transfers of Léon – the Version Intégrale and Theatrical Version - appear in their original 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced aspect ratio, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC on a Dual Layer BD-50. The easiest way to describe this transfer is stark and detailed, as Thierry Arbogast's cinematography captures the grit and grime of the New York locations from the rundown street locales to the blood-splattered apartment walls, while the details of the costumes, weaponry and close-up of actors on the whole remain clear and precise.

The film features natural lighting and an earthy colour palette. Léon for the most part is bright (perhaps overly bright for some) and clear; I’m guessing the brightness and contrast were boosted on this transfer, as the transfers on the previous DVD releases didn’t have the bold, warmer, vibrant colouring of the Blu-ray transfer - it was more of a muted colour palette on the DVD transfers in comparison. The slight negative aspect of this 'enhancement' is the occasional edge enhancement artifacts.

In the minimally-lit scenes the appearance of grain, which I didn’t mind, is more apparent. Mild noise is also apparent on occasion, possibly a result of compression artifacts, as both versions of Léon appear on the BD-50 as separate encodes, unlike the US Sony Blu-ray release of Léon which uses seamless branching. The bitrates for both the Version Intégrale and Theatrical Version remain steadily between 18 -19 Mbps and after comparing both versions they prove to be more or less the same. Optional English subtitles appear in a clear white font on this Blu-ray release, in the lower part of the frame over the lower black widescreen bar.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

While primarily a drama, Léon somewhat becomes an action orientated film, particularly during the second act and this is where the rears and bass come to life, as during the action sequences the DTS Master Audio English 5.1 (48 kHz / 3840 kbps) soundtrack exhibits solid and strong dynamic range, and it remains free of any encoding errors. Dialogue is clear and audible throughout the course of the feature film. This soundtrack is overall adequate and efficient. An error-free Linear PCM 2.0 English soundtrack is also included on the Blu-ray.

Eric Serra’s score for Léon is possibly one of his greatest, and certainly one of my personal favourites. With the DTS HD Master Audio English 5.1 option, Serra’s layered and atmospheric score is on full display for both the Version Intégrale and Theatrical Version of Léon. Middle Eastern and Eastern European influenced orchestral rhythms, with synthesizer undertones, highlighted with cymbals, bells, drums, harps, flutes and a striking violin melody, feature throughout the various musical movements. The score remains an overwhelming, expressive score which is intertwined with emotional growth between Léon and Mathilda. Serra released a single in France titled Hey Little Angel which was inspired by Léon but did not feature in the feature film. Sting’s remarkable Shape of my Heart from the 1993 album Ten Summoner's Tales concludes the feature film, with poignant lyrics which can easily be lent to the character of Léon;


"And if I told you that I loved you / You'd maybe think there's something wrong
I'm not a man of too many faces /The mask I wear is one
Those who speak know nothing / And find out to their cost
Like those who curse their luck in too many places / And those who fear are lost
I know that the spades are the swords of a soldier / I know that the clubs are weapons of war
I know that diamonds mean money for this art /But that's not the shape of my heart
"

UPDATE – 10/9/10

With MickJT’s permission I have published the following statement:

MickJT contacted me regarding two issues with Madman's release of ‘Leon.’

1: MickJT noted in Leon: Version Intégrale - ‘Venus as a Boy’ by Bjork is at a lower pitch and a slower tempo

In response to this issue I checked two NTSC DVD’s (R1 Columbia Tristar – SuperBit + R2 JVC / Victor) and the Sony U.S Blu-ray side-by-side and ‘Venus as a Boy’ appears at the same tempo and pitch as the Madman Blu-ray release, which is derived from the French Paramount Blu-ray, as is the Optimum UK Blu-ray.

I agree with MickJT that there are discrepancies in regards to pitch between how ‘Venus as a Boy’ appears on Bjork’s 1993 ‘Debut’ album on Compact Disc and in Leon: Version Intégrale, but as the song appears at this altered tempo/pitch on atleast 4 Blu-ray releases (France, UK, Australia, U.S.A) and 2 NTSC DVD’s, I believe the discrepancy in regards to pitch/tempo is merely a result of how the song appears in the feature film. I do not believe any discrepancy between the original recording on Compact Disc and the Blu-ray/DVD releases are the result of an encoding error – just an issue of how the song appears in the feature film. I treated this issue of altered pitch separately from the following issue MickJT raised -

2: MickJT cited that the LPCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack on the ‘Version Intégrale’ cut of Leon is at a significantly lower pitch in comparison with the other soundtracks on the Madman release (if this is the case, therefore this issue would also affect the Optimum/Paramount releases).

I’ve listened to the LPCM soundtrack again on the ‘Version Intégrale’ cut of Leon in response to MickJT’s comments on two set-ups – MickJT also checked the LPCM soundtrack again on the ‘Version Intégrale’ cut of Leon on three set-ups and maintained the lowered pitch issue was apparent in all of his tests.

In my honest and humble opinion I could not hear any audible pitch issues - I can say I did find Reno's voice to be deeper (not unusually low though) on this track but I don't think it is a pitch issue, as all the other actor's voices were at the same pitch as the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track - I think it's just due to the limitations of the stereo sound format. I found no pitch issue with audio soundtracks on the Theatrical Cut - actually the English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 is at a higher volume with stronger bass, when compared with the Version Intégrale English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 in my opinion. The only issue I found was some mild hiss on the Version Intégrale LPCM soundtrack - but otherwise as stated in my original review, I believe all soundtracks are "error-free".

MickJT also noted that within the Theatrical Trailer of Leon the pitch is different. In regards to discrepancies between the differentiating pitch of the audio between the Feature Film and Theatrical Trailer – I personally believe this is the result of different audio formats and audio sources. It is MickJT’s opinion that if the pitch were similar to how the audio is in the Theatrical Trailer then ‘Venus as a Boy’ would be at its correct pitch – this is an interesting thought and for MickJT raises the question of whether the pitch of the entire soundtrack was lowered in post-production.

Although I do not agree with MickJT’s opinion regarding the lowered pitch of the LPCM soundtrack, I do believe his opinion is valid within the discussion of the Madman Blu-ray release – particularly his insight of Bjork’s ‘Venus as a Boy.’ However I do not believe there is a significant fault with the LPCM audio option on the Version Intégrale’ cut on the Madman release of Leon.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Main Menu is animated and includes audio. There is access to the audio options, 12 chapter selections which is odd for a 2 hour plus film and various extra feature content. A pop-up menu is also accessible during the feature film.

Alternative Version

As mentioned the Theatrical Version of Léon is included as an Extra Feature in the Main Menu and Pop-up Menu. The user can select the following audio options: DTS HD Master Audio English 5.1 and LPCM English 2.0. The transfer is in 1080p High Definition.

10 Year Retrospective (25:09) (576p)

Producer Patrice Ledoux, Casting Director Todd Thaler, DOP Arbogast, Costume Designer Magali Guidasci, Editor Sylvie Landra, Cast members Frank Senger, Ellen Greene, Michael Badalucco, Le Besco , Reno and Portman recall their fond memories and experiences during the production of Léon. The featurette includes onset footage and alternate takes.

Natalie Portman: Starting Young (13:49) (576p)

Léon was Portman’s first feature film role, and it certainly defined the young actress, who has since woven a respectable career as an actress and academic. This featurette focuses on how Portman was cast as she was initially considered too young by the film’s producers and explores how her parents asked for some changes to the script. The featurette includes some early screen tests.

Jean Reno: The Road to Léon (12:24) (576p)

A featurette which focuses on Reno. and the importance of the role for him, as after the release of Léon, he became an international actor appearing in European Cinema and Hollywood Blockbusters simultaneously.

Trailer (1:48) (576p)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The US SONY region-free Blu-ray release of Léon includes the same content as the Australian Madman Blu-ray release and additionally -
-Lossless English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96 kHz / 5829 kbps / 24-bit)
-French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
-Portuguese: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
Optional Spanish, French, Portuguese subtitles
-Seamless branching of Version Intégrale and Theatrical Version
-Fact Track
-BD-Live
-Various Sony Pictures 1080p trailers.

The German Kinowelt Steelbook Region B Locked Blu-ray release of Léon Ultimate Edition - has the Version Intégrale and Theatrical Version of Léon with English: DTS-HD HR 7.1 and German: DTS-HD HR 7.1. This release includes identical extra feature content as the R4 Blu-ray, and additionally an isolated music score, Fact Track in German and photo slideshow.

The UK Optimum Blu ray release of Léon, which is derived from the French Paramount Blu-ray release is (almost) identical to the local release - The audio specs are - English 5.1 DTS-HD High Resolution audio and French 5.0 DTS-HD Master Audio options on the Theatrical Cut and English 5.0 DTS-HD Master Audio on the Version Intégrale and French and French HoH subtitle options.


UPDATE – 10/9/10

In regards to how the local Blu-ray release holds up against international release:

- The transfer of the Madman (AU)/Optimum (UK)/Paramount(FR) releases vs. Sony (US) – I unfortunately do not have the appropriate software to take screen captures but the easiest explanation after doing a side by side comparison is that the transfers on the Madman(AU)/Optimum(UK)/Paramount(FR) releases the contrast is on the ‘hot’ side – ‘white-hot,’ while on the Sony release the colour is subtle with more detail intact. Now here’s the dilemma – Besson reportedly actually approved the Paramount transfer – therefore the same transfer which appears on the Madman(AU)/Optimum(UK) releases. Personally I don’t think one transfer is better than the other - it’s down to personal preference.

Being a feature film almost twenty years old, I did not expect to the soundtrack to be of the quality of a recent feature – that said, in regards to the nature of the film, I believe the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. soundtrack is suitable – as explained in the audio section – it is mostly located at the front, but the rears are audible on occasion, namely during action sequences – it is a solid affair but the Sony release has a soundtrack with a higher bit-rate (96 kHz / 5829 kbps / 24-bit) and the German Kinowelt release has a 7.1 DTS-HD HR English soundtrack which has excellent reviews but the transfer is reportedly similar to the Paramount (FR) release – therefore it could be similar to the UK and AU Blu-ray releases. I have yet to see this release so I can’t do a definitive comparison.

Overall I have no qualms with the local Madman release – I believe it is a solid release – particularly as this is the first time the film has been released locally since the VHS release. I maintain it is error-free – the transfer and audio options are what they are – it’s up to the buyer to see what they prefer – in terms of transfer and audio.

Summary

Luc Besson’s Léon is one of his most admired films - (it's currently #34 on IMDB's Top 250), featuring an engaging narrative and memorable, iconic performances from Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and Gary Oldman. With stunning cinematography from Thierry Arbogast and an eclectic emotional score from Eric Serra, Léon remains one of Besson’s greatest cinematic achievements.

Léon was surprisingly never previously released as a R4 DVD title - probably due to lack of a distributor, as the film had a theatrical release and was available on VHS in 1995 with no controversy - from memory the Theatrical Version screened on Channel Nine once in the late 90s! Let's hope it does not take too long for Besson's latest film - Les Aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec to be released theatrically and on DVD/Blu-ray in Australia.

With this solid but unfortunately not perfect release from Madman on Blu-ray (the US Blu-ray and German Blu-ray have superior sound options and the US Blu-ray has a slightly more natural looking transfer in my opinion), the film will surely receive a new audience – it's hard to believe, in a few years, this great film will be 20 years old.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD35, using HDMI output
DisplayMitsubishi Electric HC6800 1080P Home Theatre Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR800
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Leon review - Bogal REPLY POSTED
Great Review - REPLY POSTED
LPCM pitch too low -
DTS-MA pitch also too low -
Audio query - and some international bluray summaries. - REPLY POSTED
RE: Audio query - and some international bluray summaries. - REPLY POSTED
Final thought regarding pitch -