The Fifth Element (1997)

The Fifth Element (1997) movie poster

director Luc Besson
viewed: 07/02/2014

I know it’s naff, but I’ve always liked Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.  Oddly enough, I saw it the night it opened.  And I liked it right off the bat.  Friends, particularly those who esteem science fiction, derided it intensely.

Comically comic book in its essence, the story was originally dreamed up by Besson as a teenager, which would explain perhaps its mushy nonsensical core about the five elements: water, earth, fire, and wind…and Milla Jovovich?  All in opposition of a monstrous black ball of evil.  And some goofy thug-like alien race and a scenery-chewing Gary Oldman as over the top as you’ll ever see him.

Really, it’s best not to overthink (or perhaps think at all) about the story.  It’s pretty ridiculous.

But the reason the film is so fun and cool is in its design and overall spirit.  No one element (haHA) embodies this more than the costume design by Jean-Paul Gaultier.  It’s the future as envisioned as gaudily acid house as the 1990’s could offer.  It’s hard not to just look at some of the costume designs without smiling, smirking, or laughing out loud.  And it’s one of the aspects of the film that is so innovative or at least so unusual.  It’s like, “Let’s imagine the future if it was fun!”

Costume design in science fiction films is a world unto itself.  Modernism, imagining the tastes of those that will come after us as as bizarre as the present could conceive.  The Fifth Element takes this as a general philosophy.  And rather than some real cultural commentary, it’s more just a total lark.

This was one of Bruce Willis’ best turns as star.  He’s as game as anybody, with his hair bleached blond, wearing tight strange shirts, and using his world-weary affability in its lightest mode.

It’s also such a European vision.  The cast, especially a lot of the smaller bit roles are a pan-Europe world, decidedly multicultural.  Again, this sort of fits well within the 1990’s House music/rave cultural world.

Finally, Milla Jovovich.  I can see, now perhaps even more clearly than ever, how her character of Leeloo is such a strange, cutesy fantasy girl.  With her orange hair and otherworldly gibberish, slender physique, on full display and looking so good in all of Gaultier’s outfits,…I’m almost ashamed to say how much it appeals to me.  Always did.  And I overall don’t really like her much.  But here…a guilty pleasure.

Guilty or not, I do enjoy it.  I watched it with Clara.  Felix fell asleep pretty quickly.  She enjoyed it pretty well.

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