La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (Blu-ray) (1990)
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)
|Year Of Production||1990|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Luc Besson|
Pierre-Alain de Garrigues
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||French Linear PCM 48/24 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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' .
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.
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’.
|Surround Channel Use|
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.
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.
This clip is really 26 seconds – it is not an error!
Brief interview segment with Eric Serra explaining the development of the soundtrack
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.
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.
|DVD||Panasonic BD35, using HDMI output|
|Display||Mitsubishi 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12|