LE DERNIER COMBAT
THE FINAL COMBAT; THE LAST BATTLE
Le Dernier Combat, although it has been retitled The Last Battle and The Final Combat in various release forms, was initially released in English under its French title. It is a variation on Mad Max 2 (1981). Unlike the numerous films that rushed to imitate Mad Max 2, setting up post-holocaust roller-derbies and gladiatorial combat, Le Dernier Combat dilutes the post-holocaust scenario via French New Wave cinema. Plotwise, Le Dernier Combat and Mad Max 2 are similar both feature a lone man who is invited into a stronghold where the inhabitant(s) maintain the remnants of technology and civilized society against marauder(s) beyond the gates who, as the film progresses, marshal all efforts to try and break in. Instead of revved up action, Bessons approach is well, so very ... French. Plot is elliptical, things never happen directly. And there are moments that are downright bizarre like the rain of fish that inexplicably occurs in the middle of the film. In fact, if you dont have the reference point of Mad Max 2 ie. a grasp of the tropes of the post-holocaust film it would be very difficult to understand what is going on. The film is shot in black-and-white and has only two lines of dialogue spoken throughout. (In fact, Le Dernier Combat could almost be a sequel to the great French anarchist fantasy Themroc (1973) about civilization reverting to anarchy and preverbal behaviour).
If this is the film that Le Dernier Combat had remained, it would probably have attracted little attention at the time and never been released outside of France. However, this is not the case and Luc Besson gradually develops some stunning moments of the rare visual poetry that science-fiction cinema can do so well. Like the images of the hero reading a book and trying to pronounce the words, or his voiceless scream of frustration at the end. There is an extraordinarily beautiful moment in the middle of the film where the doctor brings out an oxygen mask and shows Pierre Jolivet how to use it to speak. The expressions as Jolivet struggles to eventually croak out the word bonjour are beautiful to watch. There is another such moment later where the doctor takes Pierre Jolivet on a blindfolded journey through the vast building and opens a trapdoor whereupon a womans hand unexpectedly reaches out to take the tray of food he holds up. (This is delightfully replayed as a wordless romance where Pierre Jolivet substitutes a present for the tray). It is in these scenes, in the ability to go beyond the mere creation of an alien world and show the wonderment of people suddenly discovering the things we take for granted speech, a woman that makes Le Dernier Combat great science-fiction.
Luc Bessons other films of genre note are the space opera/action film The Fifth Element (1997); his fantastical interpretation of the historical story of Joan of Arc in The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (1999); the eccentric angelic intervention film Angel-A (2005); Arthur and the Invisibles (2006), a part-live, part-animated film based on his own childrens books about adventures in a land of miniaturized people, and its sequels Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard (2009) and Arthur and the Two Worlds War (2010); the adventure film The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010); Lucy (2014) in which Scarlett Johansson gains enormously expanded mental abilities; and the space opera Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017). Besson also produced and wrote The Dancer (2000) about a mute dancer who gains expression through a unique sound invention; produced the mystical quasi-sf Quebecois film Chaos and Desire (2002): wrote and produced the End Times serial killer thriller Crimson Rivers II: Angels of the Apocalypse (2003); produced the serial killer film Tristan (2003); produced and wrote the futuristic action film Banlieue 13 (2004) and its sequel Banlieue 13: Ultimatum (2009); produced the serial killer thriller Tell No One (2006); produced the Backwoods Brutality film Frontier(s) (2007); produced the videogame adaptation Hitman (2007); produced the horror film The Secret (2007); produced the animated A Monster in Paris (2011); produced the orbiting prison film Lockout (2012); and wrote/produced the English-language Banlieue 13 remake Brick Mansions (2014).