Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Le Dernier Combat (1983)
"The sky is raining fish. Skyscrapers sit in mountains of sand. Bandits sleep in trunks of used cars. It's a world of the future. A world called Planet Earth. And he's one man just trying to survive"- Promotional tagline
Stars: Pierre Jolivet, Jean Bouise, Fritz Wepper
Other Stars: Jean Reno, Christiane Kruger
Director: Luc Besson
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, nudity, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:32m:33s
Release Date: 2001-08-21
DVD ReviewThe apocalypse is a rather popular subject in movies. I think it's ironic that some of the great classic books and films in human culture have come from speculating about the downfall of mankind, from H.G. Wells' superb The Time Machine, to Mel Gibson cracking skulls in The Road Warrior. Among my favorites in this genre is Luc Besson's ambitious first, full-length feature Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle, or The Final Combat depending on the version/translation). While highly experimental—it has no dialogue—Combat is an end-of-the-world tale as handled by someone out to make an artistic statement. It may try the patience of some, but it certainly makes an attempt at being thought-provoking and different.
Set in a nondescript world where people live on a much primitive level and no one can speak, Le Dernier Combat tells the story of an unnamed man (Pierre Jolivet, who also co-wrote the film) and his quest to survive in the harsh, everyday climate living in an abandoned office building. At first, the man is obsessed with successfully creating an air-glider with which he can, hopefully, fly to a better place. His attempts are hampered, however, by various thugs that hope to rob him and gain all of his equipment. So he attempts to fly elsewhere, only winding up crashing in the city area, which is even worse. Eventually, the man finds shelter with an old man who is, seemingly, a doctor. The doctor manages to stay alive by crafting various forms of tough security and traps to keep him safe from harm, especially in the case of a particularly violent thug, as played by Jean Reno.
As the loner and the old doctor fight to stay safe, they also begin experimenting with weird concoctions that may allow people to speak again, but there is always impending danger from Jean Reno's character. Le Dernier Combat is not an action movie, but rather a very deliberate, slow-moving drama, which may be the first thing that viewers might dislike. Of course, since there is no speaking or vocal communication, this may make the film even tougher to watch, depending on the audience. For me, though, it made it a very interesting experience, since this technique makes you concentrate far more on facial expressions, gestures, and overall physical acting ability. On top of this, the audio becomes very important. One of the more moving aspects is the fitting and, at times, creepy sound design that gives a lot of character to otherwise silent scenes.
Visually, Luc Besson also contributes his characteristic style of wide-angle lenses and heavy use of background scenery. Luckily, production values are quite high, with convincing "ruins" and desolate areas. Perhaps all this results in a project that's a bit too grim and depressing, but that's the point. It's a rather harsh look at an apocalyptic scenario, but it's also a very beautiful film in certain moments. It's very artistic and intelligent, but never pompous or arrogant in its handling; at least, I never found it so. Although the film seems a bit longer than it should be, it still ranks as a wonderful piece of rough-edged sci-fi, that doesn't rely on complex special effects to try and impress an audience.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time that Le Dernier Combat has been available in the U.S. in widescreen. This alone is a fairly big deal since it was filmed at 2:35:1, and is a heavily visual film. The anamorphic image is very nice and does a good job of giving the black-and-white cinematography its proper due. While the film is very grainy and rough, it would seem intentional, making the image appear much older than it actually is. Regardless, the black and white levels are very sharp and properly balanced, resulting in a clear and impressive looking transfer. There are no obvious digital problems and no substantial aliasing from the anamorphic enhancement.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: As there is no dialogue, obviously there are no issues with that end of the audio mix. Instead, there is wisely a good deal of ambient sound and musical score to fill the gap and create mood, and it's carried very well in a Dolby Surround track with Pro-Logic center and surround material. All channels are used equally for a good, expansive mix that has both directionality and immersion. Eric Serra's musical work and sound design relate best of all. Truly impressive for a film of its age.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Professional, The Big Blue, The Messenger
Extras Review: Trailers for other films by Luc Besson are present (though, for some reason The Fifth Element is not included), but otherwise, there are no other features. The 28-chapter stops are nice, but the overall presentation is a bit generic. On a side note, I have no idea if previous versions of Le Dernier Combat were cut or otherwise edited, but the version on this disc is indeed the original Gaumont print, apparently following in the footsteps on Columbia Tri-Star's other, original print releases The Big Blue and The Professional (Leon).
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsNow all that's left for Columbia is to release an un-molested version of Luc Besson's Subway, and the Besson collection on DVD will be completed. While it is disappointing that Le Dernier Combat does not have any supplements, at the least the film itself is presented in good quality and is finally widescreen.
Dan Lopez 2001-08-21