Luc Besson • Director
by Gabriele Barcaro
22/12/2009 - Never a darling of critics, Luc Besson, today the press is asking questions not about the quality of his films (received coldly by the industry but with enthusiasm by audiences) but, rather, what happened to the “bad boy” behind Nikita and Leon. Italian journalists are asking the same thing on the occasion of the Italian release of Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard [trailer].
The film – out in France since December 2, and to be released in Italy on December 30 by Moviemax, on 150 screens – is the second instalment of the (half live action, half motion capture/3D animation) environmental saga of the young Arthur (English actor Freddie Highmore of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and his adventures in the world of the tiny Minimoys. Where everyone, from Princess Selenia to the last of the subjects, is no larger than a tooth. Except for the treacherous Maltazard (voiced by David Bowie in the first episode, this time by Lou Reed), two metres of wickedness ready to take on the human world. We can’t reveal more than that also because the film ends with a “to be continued...”, setting things up for the third instalment.
Cineuropa: What changes were there between the first and the second films?
Luc Besson: the biggest difference was experience. When we shot Arthur and the Invisibles [trailer], neither I nor the other 500 people in the crew, including the hundred young animators at BUF, had ever made an animated film. This time I felt freer, I knew to what point I could push myself. Then there are the characters’ emotional changes. In the first film Arthur didn’t dare say how he felt, and Selenia feigned ignorance. Now he’s 13, he’s having his first relationship. I think it’s moving for adults to remember the first time we said “This is my girlfriend”.
This is a moment of great vitality for animated cinema. How do you view the success of Pixar?
It’s always exciting to compete with champions, even when you know you can’t win. Pixar’s arrival generated a lot of energy, it was a stimulus to do better, especially today when technology makes so many things possible. Plus, for over 40 years Disney drew upon European culture, on our books. But John Lasseter is different, he’s a true artist who imposed his way of doing things. In any case, Pixar employs many European technicians, and the company is interested in what we’re doing.
How did you work on the motion capture?
Each 3D character is already a caricature, so there’s no need to fear overdoing it. I pushed the actors to “exaggerate” their performances during the motion capture phase. In the first film I set limits, this time I asked them to emphasize. Moreover, shooting with real actors also gives the digital creatures a dose of humanity.
Once again you worked with BUF for the 3D animation. What kind of relationship do you have with them?
Ours is a happy union. With the first Arthur we got to know one another well and I’m very happy to be able to offer new challenges that will allow BUF to show all its talent. They have developed avant-garde tools able to compete with the top American companies.
Yours is a feel-good movie with a strong environmental message. Many find it hard to recognize the director of Nikita…
You have to be careful about what you say in a film. With Arthur I tried to say that you have to accept others, without distinguishing between big or small, black or white. I think that the state of the planet has worsened tremendously in the past five years, and that’s not even taking into account poverty, so I don’t want to assault audiences with harsh films. When I made Nikita, in France bourgeois society was like a purring cat whose tail I was pulling. Today, I want to give sweetness and courage to children, seeing as how we’re leaving them a vulgar and dirty world.