La Femme Nikita (Nikita) (Directors Suite) (1990)

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Released 13-Jul-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Featurette-Making Of-The Making of Nikita
Featurette-Karyo on Besson
Featurette-The Sound of Nikita
Featurette-The Bedroom
Featurette-The Training Room
Featurette-The Vanity Room
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Four Directors Suite trailers
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 112:23 (Case: 117)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then 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 Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     La Femme Nikita (1990) and Leon (1994) are two films in Luc Besson's career which feature similar lead female roles. Both films see the transformation of a child-like person into a trained killer. Nikita, played brilliantly by Anne Parillaud, is a low-life drug addict. Mathilda in Leon, played by Natalie Portman, is an 11-year old girl from a family of drug runners who learns to become a 'cleaner' from a professional hit man. Nikita learns to become an assassin after she is convicted of killing a policeman after a bungled robbery on a pharmacy. Just what inspired Besson to develop film scripts involving these similar type of characters is anyone's guess, yet they stand out in his film career as distinguishable and unique.

     La Femme Nikita or just Nikita in the original French (La Femme Nikita was the name given for the film for its US theatrical release) was originally greeted with mixed reviews and poor box-office. However time has been much kinder to the film and it's now rated much more highly in Besson's film canon, perhaps as a result of the films which came after, namely Leon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) which showed Besson's developing talent for directing and screenwriting. Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel positively reviewed the film at the time, stating that it was a "Pygmalion legend for our own violent times". Nikita has also inspired a Hollywood remake, Point of No Return (1993) directed by John Badham and starring Bridget Fonda in the main role. Two television series have been derived from this film also, the first starring Australian Peta Wilson began in 1997 and ran for five seasons, the second, labelled simply Nikita stars Maggie Q as a rogue agent and is running currently (as of 2010).

     The main plot sees Nikita (Anne Parillaud) and three junkie cohorts planning to rob a pharmacy owned by one of the junkie's fathers to get a 'fix'. They are foiled in their attempt by the police; with all of Nikita's peers killed, she is left to face trial for the robbery and her killing of a policeman. Nikita receives 30 years for her crimes. She is reprieved of this sentence when she is chosen by the French Government Intelligence Agency (DGSE or General Directorate for External Security) to retrain as a sleeper agent or face being buried in her fake grave plot after she is legally 'killed-off'. An agent known as Bob (Tchéky Karyo) and a former transformed sleeper agent Amande (played by legendary French actress Jeanne Moreau) spend three years in training Nikita to become a cold-hearted assassin.

     The main plot then splits into two, as does Nikita's life, when she leaves the agency and begins to live her life as 'Marie'. Marie is a young fun-loving 23 year-old woman in love with Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade), an unassuming grocery assistant, while as 'Josephine' she is an assassin for the DGSE. When Nikita is called upon to plan a complex theft of documentation from a diplomat at a foreign agency things go wrong and Victor the cleaner (played by Luc Besson regular actor, Jean Reno) is called in the finish the job and completes the mission at all costs. However, it is the questions of freedom, duty and cost which will ultimately reveal what Nikita has transformed into by the end of the film.

     Actress Anne Parillaud underwent three months of judo and weapon training for her role. She remarked that the role was like a 'demon' living inside her as Nikita was exactly the opposite of her personality. The stress of shooting took a toll on her marriage to director Luc Besson and the couple separated shortly after filming was completed. However, this is still the role that Parillaud is known for today.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer is similar to the Region 1 US MGM Special Edition from 2003, with similar strengths and weaknesses. The aspect ratio of La Femme Nikita is 2:35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     The video transfer looks fairly sharp. The average bitrate is a respectable 6.25 m/b per sec, fluctuating between 5 and 9 m/b per sec. However at times low level noise is evident, possibly as a result of the film stock used originally, as this can be mainly seen in scenes without the aid of artificial source lighting. The colour timing for La Femme Nikita is consistent with a film of its era from the late eighties/early nineties. Colours are sometimes bold, contrast is good and the blacks also standout in this transfer. There are no major film artefacts, however I did detect minor edge enhancement at times.

     Subtitles are available in English in default yellow or alternative white. Please be aware that the subtitling is slightly different to the subtitling used for portions of the film found in the extra features.

     The RSDL change occurs at 56:48 during a scene change.

Video Ratings Summary
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Shadow Detail
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Audio

     There are two main audio tracks in French. The default soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 kbps, the second track is encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 224 kbps. Dialogue is clear and synchronised.

     Long-time Luc Besson collaborator Eric Senna again provides an eclectic mix of musical influences for the soundtrack. Eric Senna's score is mostly influenced by synthesizers and programming, which was starting to feature more predominantly in western music in the late eighties, but it also features themes which are more distorted and edgier (with the use of guitars) or classical. There are also some solo piano ballads used to underscore some sad scenes.

     Surround channel usage for the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is mainly confined to the front speakers, the back speakers do not really feature in this mix. Surprisingly, I found the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack more dynamic than the default 5.1 track. The subwoofer is used sparingly for some action scenes with explosions and for emphasising bass parts in Serra's score.

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

Extras

The Making of Nikita (20:37)

     Featuring interviews with the cast, mainly Jean Reno, Anne Parillaud and Tchéky Karyo, this featurette discusses the development of the film and preparation for the role of Nikita. Director of Photography, Thierry Arbogast and cast member, Jean-Hugues Anglade share their recollections of the main shoot in French.

Karyo on Besson

     This 26-second extra sees Tchéky Karyo talking about director Luc Besson's shooting method for the film.

The Sound of Nikita (4:48)

     Composer Eric Serra discusses when he met Luc Besson and his influences for scoring La Femme Nikita. He states that he took two months to score the film, but he wishes that he had more time although ultimately he was quite happy with the results!

The Bedroom (0:34)

     Anne Parillaud states how the character of Nikita needed emotional care after her imprisonment.

The Training Room (0:34)

     Some clips of the action scenes from the film are featured here.

The Vanity Room (0:34)

     Clips featuring Nikita's transformation from a junkie to a femme fatale.

Theatrical Trailer (2:23)

     The original theatrical trailer is presented in French and is 16x9 enhanced.

Directors Suite trailers

     Four Directors Suite trailers are included for Luc Besson's The Big Blue and Angel-A, Michael Haneke's 2007 English remake of his own film, Funny Games and Anton Corbijn's Control.

R4 vs R1

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

     La Femme Nikita has been released many times on DVD in other Regions. Most of these releases feature no significant extras such as the Region 1 US Trimark release, the Region 2 Cecchi Gori HV Italian, Gaumont French, Eurovideo German, Nordisk Film Scandinavian and Columbia Tristar UK and the Region 3 DVD Call Korean releases.

     The only DVD releases comparable to the Region 4 Madman Directors Suite version of La Femme Nikita are the 2003 MGM Special Edition Region 1 United States release and the 2005 Kinowelt Special Edition German release. The Region 1 version is identical to the Region 4, except for an added English 5.1 dub (which is poor, apparently). The Region 2 German release included similar extras also except for a 19-minute interview with director Luc Besson and a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. The German release is not English-friendly, so fans of La Femme Nikita really shouldn't look past the 2003 MGM Region 1 Special Edition or the 2010 Madman Directors Suite Region 4 release.

Summary

     Roger Ebert summed up his 1991 review thus: “La Femme Nikita begins with the materials of a violent thriller but transcends them with the story of the heroine's transformation. It is a surprisingly touching movie with the same kind of emotional arc as Awakenings; the character is in a trance of deprivation and poverty, neglect and drugs, until she is awakened by her violent act and its unexpected results. But as she awakens to love and sweetness, to the touch of a man who knows nothing about her past, and to questions of trust, she also awakens to a world in which, sooner or later, she will have to pay a price for her life and freedom.”

     Personally, I can't help but feel a touch of nostalgia in Besson's casting of Jeanne Moreau in this film. Is it a reference to her similar iconic performance as the erratic and whimsical Catherine in Francois Truffaut's classic 1962 film, Jules and Jim?

     This Region 4 version of La Femme Nikita on DVD features the same mostly inconsequential (because they are nearly all so short in length!) extras as the Region 1 MGM US Special Edition so pick it up if you are a fan of the film because it boasts a decent video and audio transfer at least.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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