Le Dernier Combat (The Last Battle): every man struggles for himself in a bleak post-apocalyptic world. Shot entirely in Black and White and with no dialogue, this definitely a unique and memorable style. It looks great: the sets & costumes feel genuinely post-apocalyptic, and the actors are all interesting and peculiar, with emotive faces that lend themselves to silent film – each character’s eyes in particular tells you more than an hour of dialogue could. Despite such a grim vision of the future, there’s a healthy serving of dry, but humanistic, moments of humour and joy to provide some comic relief – the blow up doll piece is hilarious, and the “Hello” scene is cinema gold. Yet, as visually appealing and interesting as the film is, it’s equally stereotypically ‘French arthouse‘ and feels dragged out, disjointed, and pretentious at various points. Another downside is the jazz-lounge soundtrack, which is hideously dated – and with no dialogue, makes for such a crucial part of the film. For being Luc Besson‘s first film, it’s a surprisingly accurate blueprint for his career so far: ambitious, interesting, looks great, but there’s not much under the bonnet.
Undercover Brother: when it turns out that “The Man” is trying to quash black culture through brainwashing important figures, an all-black spy agency (the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D.) send in their best man. The script grabs every stereotype imaginable by the horns and rolls with it: afros, fashion, jive talk, a mind-control drug deployed through fried chicken, Undercover Brother’s weakness is ‘White she devil‘, the agency have to employ a white guy through affirmative action… most of them are hits, but as a honky, there were probably a load that slipped by me. The director needed a better handle on this; doesn’t know if it should be a straight up spoof / blaxploitation / Spy / martial art or political… it covers them all, but in half-hearted, clunky segments. The camerawork is also quite poor: awkward jaunty angles overused and it breaks the 180-degree rule for no reason. A lot of the jokes reference the time where it was filmed (2002), so it feels a little dated now, and at 85 minutes, it does well to not overstay its welcome – but hey, the real James Brown appears at the end. Undercover Brother is both a hit and miss; it’s smart and dumb; has both high and low brow laughs – there’s something for everyone, but just not enough of the good stuff.