The Big Blue (1988)


The Big Blue Storyline

Enzo and Jacques have known each other for a long time. Their friendship started in their childhood days in the Mediterranean. They were not real friends in these days, but there was something they both loved and used to do the whole day long: diving. One day Jacques’ father, who was a diver too, died in the Mediterranean sea. After that incident Enzo and Jacques lost contact. After several years, Enzo and Jacques had grown up, Johanna, a young clerk in an insurance office, has to go to Peru. There she meets Jacques who is being studied by a group of scientists. He dives for some minutes into ice-cold water and the scientists monitor his physical state that is more like a dolphin than human. Johanna can not believe what she sees and gets very interested in Jacques but she’s unable to get acquainted with him. Some weeks later back in her office, she finds out that Jacques will be competing in a diving championship that takes place in Taormina, Sicily. In order to see Jacques again she makes up a story so the firm sends her to Italy for business purposes. In Taormina there is also Enzo, the reigning diving world champion. He knows that only Jacques can challenge and probably beat him. This time Johanna and Jacques get closer, but Jacques, being more a dolphin than man, cannot really commit and his rivalry with Enzo pushes both men into dangerous territory…

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The Big Blue Movie Reviews

The sea is their life… And their death.

This is a beautiful film on every level. Beauty and photography, music, performances, and characterizations. It doesn’t matter that this may not be a subject people are interested in, but it deals with people who are beautiful inside their soul as well as physically, in tune with the beauty of the watery part of the Earth and loving their passion of competitive deep sea diving with all their heart. In fact, they love it so much that human love for them is a distraction, and they are not fully content unless they are diving off of cliffs or clad in scuba equipment and frolicking with the wild sea life that is as fascinated with them as they are with the wild sea life.

The charismatic Jean-Marc Barr is a quiet, reflective person, always happy when he’s surrounded by dolphins, and they love him as much as he loves them. When he takes a midnight swim with the dolphins, it’s as if he has found his inner soul and even though he is in love with the American Rosanna Arquette, he’s not fully content when he’s out of the water, only in touch when he’s with them. A performance of quiet elation, Barr will make you smile every time he smiles, and the Innocents in his soul is joyous. Jean Reno is much more gregarious, an older Italian man still possessed by his mother, try to hide from her when he tries to eat out because she gets furious when he eats anything that is not her cooking. A very funny scene with mama present has Arquette accepting the plate of pasta that Reno had just ordered and eating it even though she had just devoured her own ranch.

Taking place in locations all over the world, this is a reminder that the entire Earth as far as land is concerned is surrounded by bodies of water, so massive that we underestimate its power and its beauty. But this is not a film about a natural disaster concerning water. It is about something much deeper that will mean different things to different dealers. These two men are very different too, but they share a bond like brothers and only death can separate them if they don’t die together. In a sense, it’s a love story of a different nature, and even though Barr does get angry at Reno in one scene, it’s basically because they are both dry and Barr is feeling empty and lost because he’s confused about the passions of the sea and the passion of the woman he loves but can’t commit to. When she finds that he left their bed in the middle of the night to go swimming with dolphins, she acts like she’s been cheated on, and it’s not just an emotional woman overreacting. She’s found the one competition that she can’t beat.

While this is definitely a bit overly long, somehow it flies by, and the viewer can become lost in the beauty and spirituality of everything going on. Barr stands out both because of his physical and spiritual beauty, a person that you can look at and desperately want to know but never get to know because there is so much inside of them that can’t be revealed in words. Probably the reason why he wouldn’t get nominated for a leading actor award would be because his performance is so quiet that it would be difficult to single out a scene to show the strength of that performance. Reno gets the laughs, and his Antics are often lightly over the top. It’s the subtle comedy that really works here, and even though his character is a bit egotistical, he’s also quite lovable. This is also probably the best performance I’ve seen Arquette give, frustrated when she tries to share the sea with Barr and realizes that he’s not willing to share that part of him. As for the ending, it is sad, certainly expected but that doesn’t change the impact of it. It may have left me sad, but the film did not leave me blue.

Into the beautiful blue

When one sees that a film is directed by Luc Besson, has music by Eric Serra and that it has Jean Reno, it is hard not to expect a lot. ‘The Big Blue’ meets the high expectations, if just falling short of exceeding them, while it is a very divisive film and it’s not one of my favourites it is a beautiful film and really quite stunning at its best.

‘The Big Blue’ does fare better in the friendship than the love story. The love story has some sweet and touching moments but it is on the shallow and sketchy side. This would have been made better if more thought was put into Rosanna Arquette’s character, if she was made more endearing and that she was better developed. Instead the character felt almost like an afterthought at first and Arquette didn’t do much for me sadly.

Regarding ‘The Big Blue’s’ story, it generally, while full of enough things to make the film worth sticking with, is a bit thin for such a long length.

However, the friendship has a lot of charm and warmth, with sprinkles of humour and nostalgia. Besson’s direction often is masterly, with an amazing eye for style and visual beauty and he really does bring out the best of his actors. Excluding Arquette, which was largely actually because of the way the character was written (people may be tired of hearing this as an excuse when actors/actresses give not so good performances when working with not so well written characters but actually to me it is a valid one), the acting is very good. The obvious standout is a superb and often very funny Jean Reno, but handsome Jean-Marc Barr also shows why he was deserving of a bigger career.

Eric Serra’s music score is a big asset, soothing, understated and hauntingly hypnotic. There is a good deal of charm, also humour and poignancy in the writing.

Best of all when it comes to ‘The Big Blue’ is the cinematography and the underwater scenes. The scenery is also exquisite. There are many visually beautiful films out there, beautiful doesn’t do the sensational cinematography justice. Haven’t seen a film with cinematography this good in a while and while Besson’s films are all very well made ‘The Big Blue’ is a very strong contender for his best-looking film. The film to me contains the finest underwater sequences in film, poetic and tear-jerking and the ocean has rarely looked so magnificent and it was clear the camera was in love with it. One moment particularly stands out, the first plunge into the mysterious blackness is simply cinema at its most magical.

In summary, while it didn’t quite blow me away ‘The Big Blue’ is an incredibly well done film. 8/10 Bethany Cox

not sure

In 1965 Greece, Jacques Mayol and Enzo Molinari are childhood rivals in freediving. Jacques loses his father in a diving accident. In 1988 Sicily, Enzo (Jean Reno) is an arrogant diver for hire with Roberto. He wants to challenge Jacques. In Peru, insurance adjuster Johana Baker (Rosanna Arquette) visits Dr. Laurence’s icy research station after an incident and falls for diver Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr). She lies to her boss Duffy (Griffin Dunne) to follow Jacques in his reunion with Enzo at the World Championship of Freediving in Sicily.

I’m not sure which version I saw. I don’t like the flighty Johana. I would preferred concentrating on the relationship between Jacques and Enzo. Anyways, why can’t she simply be a tourist in Sicily. Her slightly off-center sensibility seems wrong. I don’t like the insurance side trip and chasing a man she barely knows halfway around the globe by lying and stealing from the company. Sometimes, Luc Besson has that off-center sense of humor which usually works well with his energetic action style. This is far from an action movie. The underwater diving adds a zen quality. Jean Reno is great as usual. Jean-Marc Barr was a newbie by comparison at the time. He’s a little stiff. I don’t think this movie works (at least not the version I saw).