Le Grand Bleu (The Big Blue) 1988.
Those who have seen the film often differ on the symbolism of the ending. In 1988, to my insufferably romantic 19 year old mind, it was clearly an enactment of Mayol’s trancendence to another state of being. The dolphin represented an emissary from a mystical world, or non-human consciousness, escorting him onward to bliss. *fin*
Many of my contemporarys interpreted it as poeticised suicide. After all, the film experience is inherently subjective. For them, this was the penultimate act in a greek tragedy. From their boyhood in Greece, the obsessive and frequently infantile competition between the adult protagonists culminates in Taormina, Italy, with the destruction of both. American film industry execs saw it in the same melancholic light, and weren’t impressed, which is why the US version had a playful, tidy and thoroughly unsatisfying ending. That said, the 168min ‘version longue’ director’s cut released in 1998 is unnecessarily protracted. The original 138min film is Goldilocks, thank you very much.
The film’s director, Luc Besson was always quick to dismiss any suggestions of suicide. Clearly, in some interviews he began to tire of the same line of questioning. Yet the plot left enough ambiguity to allow for maudlin interpretation. I believe this is why it resonated with an entire generation of mostly young, overwhelmingly European movie goers.
Inevitably there are parallels drawn between Mayol, played by French-American Jean Marc Barr, and Peter Pan. Mayol is the boy-man, his Neverland in the sea. His inability to form a mature relationship with Rosanna Arquette’s character is another facet of his struggle with the realities of everyday life.
So much is written on the hidden theme of homo-eroticism between male characters in movies these days, I’ll omit any commentary along those lines, save for these few words: It’s a fucking friendship, ok?
I will always remember Jean Reno for his portrayal of Enzo Molinari, imposing, confident, the perfect riposte to Mayol’s childlike introspection. For this he received a César Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination.
I must admit to never having seen the US version of the movie in it’s entirety, nor have I listened to the alternative soundtrack by Bill Conti. I’m a fan of Mr Conti’s work, but why it was necessary to replace Eric Serra’s excellent score I will never fathom.
I’ll end with an opening. I can’t imagine this with any other score than Serra’s. I implore you, avail yourself of a high quality, (blu-ray if you can) authentic reproduction of the original, avoiding both US and Director’s cuts. Watch it through, then go for a long, long swim.