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The Big Blue: Director's Cut

When a director finally gets to realize his dream film, the proverbial long-term project decades in the making, it's almost always a disaster. The Big Red One, The Last Temptation of Christ: after long gestation, these films ended up inert, joyless, and dull. You couldn't figure out why the guy wanted to make it in the first place. French director Luc Besson got a chance to make his dream project early; The Big Blue was only his third film, but on the basis of his prior The Last Combat, and Subway he was given his head — and eighty million francs. The film went on to make a lot of money in France, but in America, where the film was cut down and given a new ending, it ended up making only $47,000 during its 1988 U.S. run. It's an odd film, even in, or perhaps especially in, the director's cut version, which has more scenes between Jean-Marc Barr and Rosanna Arquette, and a different, more poetical ending. The Big Blue tells of a fellow named Jacques, who is more amphibian than human. His childhood friend and rival, Enzo (the great Jean Reno) lures Jacques into a deep sea diving competition. They trade wins and loses, but even Jacques's relationship with an American insurance investigator (Arquette) fails to distract him from his relationship with the dolphin-filled sea. Eventually, he gives into the lure of the ocean depths, and abandons his pregnant girlfriend. The Big Blue is a beautiful film to look at, and it has affecting and amusing moments, but casting problems (the uncharismatic Barr; the cutsy, bumbling Arquette), narrative vagueness, and a meandering plot prevent full enjoyment (look for the late Paul Shenar in a small part, a Canadian actor who had one of the most beautiful voices in cinema). Nevertheless, Besson could not have hoped for a better presentation on DVD from Columbia Tristar. There were several versions of The Big Blue on laserdisc, most now out of print, but this seems to be the definitive edition of the film, a beautiful anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer with English 5.1 Dolby Digital sound and 2.0 Dolby Surround in French (with English, French, and Spanish subtitles) on a single-sided, dual layered disc. The DVD also features a photo gallery of the European ad campaign, filmographies, extra trailers, production notes, and an animated menu with scene selection (28 chapters). Best of all is an isolated music score track with Eric Serra's superb soundtrack, which was replaced with one by Bill Conti for the first American release. Keep case.
—D.K. Holm

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