The Feminism Trilogies of Luc Besson and Lars Von Trier

I can hardly think of any two writer/directors less alike than jolly French director Luc Besson, and disturbed, pathological, deeply unpleasant, fittingly Danish director Lars Von Trier.

Despite the obvious sitcom fodder the art-film odd-couple are, they have an important similarity: Women. Namely, both consistently imagine very human women at the center of their films, totally breaking out of the doormat/whore dichotomy, Besson and Von Trier tell their respectively fantastical and soul-suckingly devastating tales through the singular experiences of women and for this, I heart them both.

I imagine their feminist films as trilogies:

Luc Besson
La Femme Nikita
Leon (The Professional)
The Fifth Element

Lars Von Trier
Breaking the Waves
Dancer in the Dark

I will start my pickings with my favorite film of them all:

The Professional

Bjork’s Venus as a Boy is one of the more memorable songs in The Professional soundtrack. Play it whilst reading this review to get the whole…shall we say… milieux.

The Professional is the story of Leon (Jean Reno), a solitary immigrant, employed as a hit-man by the Italian mob in New York who, through a twist of fate, finds in his charge the life of doe-eyed 9 year old Matilda (Natalie Portman). Leon trains Matilda in the skills of his trade (which he calls “cleaning”) and a complicated love between the two blossoms. Natalie Portman has never come near to equalling her performance in this film. Her character, Matilda, is one of the most dynamic female protagonists in recent memory.

In the hands of another writer/director, The Professional might come dangerously close to being a dull and flawed tale of a helpless little girl finding a father figure, but Besson envisions the emotionally stunted Leon and wise-for-her-years Matilda as equals, daring to imagine the love between the two complexly. Is the threat of pedophilia ever looming? Kinda…yeah…but whatevs. Oddly, Matilda’s cute attempts to get her freak on with Leon doesn’t eclipse or pervert the overall tender and empowering connection they share. It is just one of the many shapes of their partnership. It’s not sexual at all. I swear!

Think of it as thus:
Lolita – sex + guns= The Professional.

The Professional is a perfect, small story and, in truth, my favorite film. Be sure to Netflix the uncut directors edition. The sanitised American version cuts out the more “troublesome” scenes. Yawn, America. Yawn.