Each year, Miami International Film Festival (MiamiFF) singles out a director whose films have uniquely achieved both vast international popularity and an enduring cult appeal. At MiamiFF 2007, the  5th annual Career Achievement Tribute honor went to French film director, writer, and producer Luc Besson, and included a retrospective selection of film clips and an on-stage discussion moderated by National Public Radio film critic David D’Arcy, followed by Besson’s supernatural comedy Angel-A, where a statuesque blonde comes down from heaven (Danish beauty Rie Rasmussen) to help a suicidal con man (André Moussah) turn his life around using her seductive manner and deadly martial arts to settle any outstanding business.

After honing his skills working crews in Hollywood and as an assistant director in France, Besson’s first feature film debut was a sensation: The Last Battle (Le dernier combat), an inventively shot, dialogue-free, post-apocalyptic drama which signaled the arrival of a new auteur, and won nearly 20 international awards. The term “A Luc Besson film” summons a particular mental image—a kinetic action-filled, frequently violent narrative with a stylishly rendered, visually rich atmosphere.

The Big Blue (1988); La Femme Nikita (1990); Léon: The Professional (1994); The Fifth Element (1997)

The Big Blue (1988); La Femme Nikita (1990); Léon: The Professional (1994); The Fifth Element (1997)

His imaginative vision continued with a string of now well-known films that fuse genre with elements of fable, fairy tale and mythology such as the contemplation of an earthly paradise set amongst deep sea divers in The Big Blue (Le grand bleu); a female government assassin fighting for her life and identity in the thriller La Femme Nikita; the unlikely soul mates of a hit man (Jean Reno) and a young girl (Natalie Portman’s debut) who survive in a violent New York in The Professional (new title is Leon: The Professional); an airborne cabbie Bruce Willis fighting evil 250-years in the future in the dazzling Cesar-winning The Fifth Element.


Besson’s latest oeuvre, Lucy, a sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, topped the North American box office over the weekend taking in $44 million, his biggest opening as director to date. After a brief primordial flashback to the dawn of man, the film quickly deposits us in present-day Taipei, where Lucy (Johansson), a careless party girl is lured into a diabolic drug scam run by a ruthless Korean crime boss (Choi Min-sik). Lucy manages to turn the tables on her captors, transforming herself into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic .  —Tatyana Chiocchetti