The Big Blue (1988) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
| Scoop's comments in white:
This is Luc Besson's "director's cut" of a movie which was praised before the director's cut came out. It adds back in 49 minutes of footage. That is a lot of footage.
I'm not sure how good the short version was, but this extended cut is a tedious movie which drags on forever. It's as bad or worse than Besson's Joan of Arc film. The extra footage must have been 49 minutes of really boring stuff, except for a few frames of Rosanna Arquette's breasts, and probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor. .
This film has all the same attributes that I've always noted about Besson, multiplied out several times.
The biggest problem with Besson the writer in this case, is that he just didn't write the kind of project that Besson the director is good at. At his very best, Besson is incomparably effective with tension. He shows how the characters feel fear, how the conflicting forces are coming together for the showdown. He's just great at that.
... how much tension is there in competitive deep free-diving?
And, let me hasten to add, this is not a great spectator sport. Guys dive down to see how low they can go. They come back up.
This competition even minmizes the value of Besson's brilliant underwater photography because even the best photographic technique needs something to photograph. Underwater shots can be splendid if there is a coral reef, caves to explore, shipwrecks, lots of colorful fish, or dangerous predators. None of that is present here. A guy goes down really deep next to a rope that marks the depth. He's down so deep that it is really dark when he gets there. There are not even any fish in sight. End of story.
The deep-diving is the context, not the plot. The basic romantic plot is this:
Who the hell can you relate to in this film? Jean Reno, the dependable noir character actor, is completely miscast, and spends the entire movie in a bathing suit instead of wearing sunglasses and a cheap suit. I love his basso voice, but his growled English is so incomprehensible that I had to rewatch some scenes with English subtitles. Jean-Marc Barr, as aqua-lad, spends the entire movie with his eyes glazed over, and rarely speaks for any reason. Rosanna Arquette has to play a completely unrealistic character who seems to want to get pregnant so she can trap fish-boy into being with her instead of with his precious fishy. The minor characters are written so poorly and acted so badly that you'll laugh out loud several times.
And in the end, fish-boy just makes Rosanna cut the safety line on his power diver so he can go down to an unsafe level, down into the unfathomable depths and remain there forever. He goes down to a record depth, then his beloved dolphin shows up and carries him off somewhere.
I didn't make that up. That's really what the movie is about. And it's three hours of that. The film has developed a cult following with young people because of its rhapsodic adolescent sea mysticism.
Tuna's comments in yellow:
The Big Blue is a Luc Besson film available on DVD in a director's cut with an additional 49 minutes of running time. It could be summarized as a pecker contest between French American Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr) and Italian Enzo (Jean Reno) for the world's deepest free dive championship, and a love story between Jacques and Rosanna Arquette, an insurance secretary who falls instantly in love with him in Peru, and follows him to Italy.
director's cut offers more than enough running
time to explore several relationships, and, in the
end, I think that is what this film is about. None
of the relationships are simple. Jacques and Enzo
grew up together on a Greek island, and shared a
competitive love of the sea and diving. After Enzo
makes it big, he sends for Jacques to compete.
Enzo and Jacques have a deep friendship born of
common history, mutual respect and a common love,
the sea. Yet, they are fierce competitors. Jacques
is completely enamored of Arquette, but only comes
alive swimming with dolphins, and his real
mistress is the bottom of the ocean. Arquette sees
early on that the sea is her rival, but hopes her
love is enough to carry the relationship.
This is a difficult one for me to score. It is a very long watch in this extended version, although it does at least make sense now with the additional material. I did make it through the entire thing without the fast forward, and felt that I knew the characters. I understood the dark and rather strange ending. The cinematography and locations were impressive, and I suppose this is an epic character-driven drama, so your evaluative criterion becomes, "Are these people you would willingly spend that much of your life with?"
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