The return of Luc Besson, great cinema burner

Director Luc Besson at the 80th Venice Film Festival for the film "Dogman"August 31, 2023 (Tiziana FABI)

Director Luc Besson at the 80th Venice Film Festival for the film “Dogman”, August 31, 2023 (Tiziana FABI)

Having fallen after reaching the heights, Luc Besson, the most international of French directors, is trying to bounce back in Venice where he presented his new film, “Dogman”, in competition on Thursday.

With this thriller, Besson, against whom rape charges were brought before being definitively dismissed by the courts this year, is in the running for the Golden Lion.

A rather unexpected presence for a figure in entertainment cinema often shunned by critics and a form of revenge for one of the rare French filmmakers known to the general public abroad.

“Dogman” wants to follow in the dark vein of the 64-year-old filmmaker, like “Subway”, “Nikita” or “Léon”, which revealed Natalie Portman.

The main role is played by one of the hopes of American independent cinema, Caleb Landry Jones, winner of the acting prize at Cannes in 2021 for “Nitram”.

The film tells the story of a child beaten and rejected by his father, who locks him day and night in a cage with dogs. Now an adult, disabled since his father shot him, he lives on the fringes of society, organizing robberies in the houses of the rich. A drag queen in his spare time, he sings Edith Piaf on the stage of a cabaret.

Besson, author of cult films like “The Big Blue”, “The Fifth Element” or “Lucy” and its 56 million admissions worldwide, is not afraid of mixing genres.

“I am not a cinema specialist,” he declared in Venice, when asked about his credentials. Self-taught, trained on the job, he explained that he preferred to draw inspiration from “the people around (him), the trees, the weather” to write his film.

“Dogman”, with sometimes Christlike accents, seems to borrow as much from “The Jungle Book” for its Mowgli-like character raised by animals, from the darkness of “Joker” via “La Môme” for its soundtrack.

Not counting “101 Dalmatians”: dozens of dogs were brought together for filming, with some 25 trainers, Luc Besson told the Mostra. Some had their own personal trainer and their own trailer.

– Bet –

Will “Dogman” finally bring luck to Luc Besson? The director and producer who cherished a Hollywood destiny has had a series of insults and is betting a lot on this return.

Commercial failures, and in particular that of a film with excessive ambitions, “Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, almost killed EuropaCorp, the company he dreamed of seeing compete with the major American studios. He is now only artistic director.

Enough to overshadow the past successes of in-house productions, from “Yamakasi” to “Banlieue 13” including the “Taxi” franchise.

On the legal front, in 2018 he had to face accusations of rape brought by actress Sand van Roy. The case had become one of the most emblematic of the #MeToo movement in France but the accusations were definitively dismissed by the Court of Cassation in June.

“Something of which I am particularly proud today is of my freedom,” declared about his work as a director the one who had dreamed for a time of founding a “Hollywood-sur-Seine”, in the Cité du cinema, in the Paris region. “No one can stop me from writing (the film) I want.”

The film is released in France on September 27.


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