Saturday, March 11, 2006

Now Playing: The Fifth Element

The year 1997 was an interesting one for me at the movies. Normally I don't go out to the theater to see one movie several times mainly due to rising costs. As much as I love film, it can be a damn expensive hobby if all you do is sit in the theater which is one reason among many why I and film lovers the world over treat DVD like pure heroin. But 1997 was a little different for me. The year started off with the re-release of the Star Wars trilogy re-mastered and altered by head Jedi George Lucas. I could count on one hand the number of times I'd seen those in the theater so you better believe I watched those a lot. Then in the spring Gross Point Blank came out which I absolutely fell in love with.

But in May, that insane French director Luc Besson let his imagination run completely wild with The Fifth Element and I've watched it religiously ever since. I've been meaning to pick it up on DVD for years but when someone releases enough different versions that I lose track then no matter how much I like the flick I'll say "screw it." Such was the case with this gem, but after finally getting some software installed that lets me watch DVDs on my computer I figured it was high time to pick up the Ultimate Edition.

Which is what I'm watching right now, and it remains gloriously fun. Watching this is like Besson opened a portal straight into his imagination and said, "Come on in." But in French.

Good lord is this movie fun, from the the wild costume designs by Jean-Paul Gaultier to the extremely French soundtrack by frequent Besson collaborator Eric Serra, to Bruce Willis obviously having the time of his life as cab driver/ex-military man Korbin Dallas. He's fortunately backed up by a cast that's having as much fun as he is most notably the great Ian Holm. Holm is flat-out hilarious as extremely nervous priest Vito Cornelius who's known his destiny was coming for 300 years but is terrified of what it means he'll have to do.

And what other movie would have the cojones to cast Tiny Lister as the President of basically everything and Gary Oldman as an art dealer/weapons dealer who based his performance on Ross Perot. Bright colors are everywhere as is eclectic performances, both of which come together in the character of Ruby Rod who proved to be the make-or-break character. Personally I found him hilarious, but he can grate on the nerves if you don't think Chris Tucker is funny.

I do wish the tons of great ideas were followed up on. The ZF-1, for instance, is introduced as the end all-be all of weapons but it shows up only twice. The uber-villain also falls by the wayside because even though it's described as evil incarnate it comes across as a giant fireball with a deep voice.

I do love the site gags like the cigarettes that are 70 percent filter, the mugger, the obvious Star Wars gag(s), and the wickedly cool Diva. There is just too much fun overall to pass this movie up if you haven't seen it. As such, it's going to wind up on loop in my PC everytime I need some creative inspiration.

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