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The Big Blue ( 1988 )
The Big Blue (French: Le Grand Bleu) is a 1988 English-language film made by French director Luc Besson. The film stars Jean-Marc Barr, Rosanna Arquette, Jean Reno and depicts a fictionalized account of the sporting rivalry between two famed free divers.
Le Grand Bleu was released in France on May 11 1988 and in the United States August 22 1988. It was released in the United States under the name The Big Blue. Luc Besson was initially unsure of who to cast in the main role of Jacques Mayol. He initially offered the role to Christopher Lambert and Mickey Rourke and even considered himself for the role until someone suggested Jean-Marc Barr. Besson has a cameo appearance as one of the divers in the film. Le Grand Bleu was the most financially successful French film of the 1980's gaining 9,193,873 admissions in France alone and played in French theaters for a year. The film was also a modest Box Office hit in the States grossing $3,580,882.
The film charts the competition and friendship of real-life champions Jacques Mayol (played by Barr) and Enzo Maiorca (renamed in the film to "Enzo Molinari", and played by Reno). However the divers were not close in age in real life and did not compete. The action is divided into two timelines - the nascent rivalry between the two divers as children, and (as adults) their final competition at the world free-diving championships at the Sicilian town of Taormina. Mayol's search for love, family, "wholeness" and the meaning of life and death is a strong undercurrent of the latter timeline.
With its extensive underwater scenes and languid score (as with nearly all of Luc Besson's films the soundtrack was composed by Eric Serra), the film has been both praised as beautiful and serene, and in equal measure criticized as being dull and uneventful. While popular in Europe, the film was a commercial failure in North America in part due to the studio's recutting of the movie to include a simplified "happy" ending and the replacement of Serra's score with one composed by Bill Conti. This version was only available on VHS and Laserdisc in the United States (both with 4x3 pan and scan transfers) and is currently OOP. The director later released a longer Director's Cut on DVD, featuring the original ending and an extended version of the Éric Serra score. The film was dedicated to his daughter Juliette Besson who required surgery, having become ill whilst he was working on the film.
A Blu-ray Disc version, containing both the extended and theatrical cuts of the movie, was released on September 14th 2009 in the UK, but this contains French-dubbed versions of both cuts, rather than the original English language. This was later corrected and the second release contained a LPCM 2.0 English soundtrack and a DTS 2.0 French dub. The French Blu-Ray release contains only the Director's Cut of the film but with a French DTS-MA 5.1 soundtrack and is supplemented with Atlantis on Blu-Ray as well.
The Big Blue was nominated for several César Awards and won César Award for Best Music Written for a Film (Eric Serra) and Best Sound in 1989. The film also won France's National Academy of Cinema's Academy Award in 1989.
The film was screened out of competition at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival