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The Big Blue(1988)
A visionary epic of obsession and beauty about Jacques Mayol, the handsome diver who is so at home in the water that he seems only half-human. Jacques' best friends are a family of playful porpoises and Enzo Molinari, his swaggering Italian diving rival. Jacques and Enzo grew up together in the Mediterranean, and remain lifelong friends despite a fierce battle for the top prize in the world free diving championships, where divers compete to see who can descend to the furthest depths of the sea with no equipment other than their own courage and determination. But when the dreamer Jacques falls in love with the beautiful Johanna, he finds himself torn between the damsel and the deep blue sea.
For more about The Big Blue and the The Big Blue Blu-ray release, see the The Big Blue Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on April 12, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jean-Marc Barr, Jean Reno, Rosanna Arquette
Director: Luc Besson
» See full cast & crew
The Big Blue Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, April 12, 2010
Winner of Cesar Awards for Best Sound and Best Music Written for a Film, Gallic director Luc Besson's "Le grand bleu" a.k.a "The Big Blue" (1988) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The disc contains the longer Director's Cut of the film (169 min) as well as the shorter Theatrical Cut (138 min). The supplemental features on the disc include the documentary feature "L'aventure du grand bleu" and trailers. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-B "locked". Please note that this English language release has the following disclaimer on its front cover: "Includes English & International Language Options".
Subway is my favorite Luc Besson film, but Le grand bleu is the one I always keep coming back to. It is a tragic film, there is no doubt, but there is something about it that makes me feel good. Probably because like Besson, who has admitted that Le grand bleu was inspired by a friendly encounter with a dolphin, I've always loved the Ocean, and the film speaks to me in a very special way.
Le grand bleu tells the story of Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr, Don't Let me Die on a Sunday) and Enzo (Jean Reno, Leon: The Professional), two childhood friends, who have not seen each other for more than twenty years. Both love the sea. Both used to dive together. Now, Enzo is living in Sicily, where he has been the undisputed free diving world champion for six years. Jacques lives somewhere in the Peruvian Andes, where he has found a job at a remote research station.
Enzo asks Jacques to come to Sicily, where the next diving competition is going to take place. Jacques agrees and arrives accompanied by his new girlfriend, Johana (Rosanna Arquette, Desperately Seeking Susan), an insurance agent from New York City. Soon, the two friends begin challenging each other - first above water, then under.
The more time Johana spends with Jacques, the more she thinks about having a family. She wants a baby, a house, plenty of time to love Jacques. But Jacques is drawn to the Ocean. He'd rather spend a whole night playing with the dolphins than making love to Johana. When she asks Enzo why, he tells her that Jacques "is not quite like the rest of us".
The competition begins. Enzo and Jacques immediately start challenging each other, just like when they were kids. Soon, however, things get out of control, and they are told to quit the competition if they wish to make it back home alive.
For years, Le grand bleu has been available in two different versions. One is the shorter Theatrical Cut. The other is the longer Director's Cut. The Theatrical Cut omits a great deal of footage Besson and his crew shot underwater. As a result, the film feels more like a conventional story about two rather eccentric men who share the same passion for the Big Blue.
The Director's Cut transforms Le grand bleu into a completely different film. There are still plenty of Enzo's jokes in it, and Johana's affair with Jacques still has an important role, but the only star here is the Ocean.
The acting is fantastic. Jean Reno plays the overconfident Italian diving champion who fears his mother to perfection. Some of the early scenes in the film, where he argues with his younger brother, Roberto, are absolutely hilarious. German actor Jean-Marc Barr is very impressive. He does not talk much but his eyes tell us everything there is to know about him - he is in love with Ocean. The young Rosanna Arquette looks a bit shaky at times, but around Reno and especially Barr, she is definitely likable.
Carlo Varini's cinematography is superb. The beautiful Mediterranean nights seen in the film would force anyone to dream beautiful dreams, perhaps even fall in love. There is one specific scene where Enzo plays the piano on the beach under a full moon that is astounding.
Of course, it is Eric Serra's notorious soundtrack, a truly beautiful mix of mid-tempo ambient tunes and electonica featuring wonderful sax solos, that transforms Le grand bleu into a very, very special film.
Note: In 1988, Le grand bleu was the opening film at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1989, the film won Cesar Awards for Best Music Written for a Film (Eric Serra) and Best Sound (Pierre Befve, Gérard Lamps, François Groult).
The Big Blue Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Luc Besson's The Big Blue arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. Please note that the disc contains the longer Director's Cut of the film (169 min) as well as the shorter Theatrical Cut (138 min).
As it was the case with the Blu-ray release of Luc Besson's Subway, The Big Blue appears to have been struck from a dated source. As a result, there are minor contrast and clarity fluctuations. Fine object detail, however, is mostly pleasing. The film's grain structure is mostly intact; very mild digital noise is occasionally mixed with it, but I believe that only the most sensitive amongst you would be bothered by it. The color-scheme is pleasing. Blues, greens, yellows, reds, browns, blacks and white look stable and rich, though they are not always well saturated. I noticed a bit of mild edge-enhancement popping up here and there, but macroblocking is nowhere to be seen. Finally, I did not detect any large cuts, splices, warps, marks, or stains to report in this review. To sum it all up, even though there are a few issues with the transfer, The Big Blue has never looked this good before. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Big Blue Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0 and French DTS 2.0 (the back cover incorrectly states that the disc contains a French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
The English LPCM 2.0 track is solid. Its dynamic amplitude is a lot better than I expected it to be. The bass is potent and the high-frequencies very good. The dialog is crisp, clean and very easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Eric Serra's wonderful music score either. The beautiful sax solos, in particular, sound outstanding. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hiss. There are no dropouts either.
The Big Blue Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Theatrical Cut - the shorter theatrical cut of Luc Besson's film (138 min). With an English LPCM 2.0 track and optional English subtitles. (1080p).
L'aventure du grand bleu - a fascinating documentary by French distributors Gaumont about the making of The Big Blue, the unique locations seen throughout the film, its characters, music, etc. In French, with optional English subtitles. (PAL, 97 min).
Trailers - the original French theatrical trailer (with optional English subtitles) and U.S. trailers for the film. (PAL, 3 min).
The Big Blue Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
There are a few minor issues with the Blu-ray release of The Big Blue, but I still think that it is very much worth owning. Eric Serra's score has never sounded this good! Frankly folks, I don't think that we would see a North American release of this wonderful film any time soon, so if you could play Region-B "locked" discs, go for it. RECOMMENDED.
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