Sunday, September 14, 2014

Luc Besson retains Cartesian clarity in Lucy where the mind is blown away

French director Luc Besson has been over the para-normal for many years now. In The Fifth Element, in Nikita and even in Joan of Arc, the Messenger, he has been looking at the powers of the mind. In his latest film, Lucy, he gets takes the issue head on. Through the three strands of narrative -- one, the documentary observation that how human beings using just 10 per cent of brain power have moved from primordial primitive life to the ultra-technical primitive stage passing through the many centuries of progress and development. Then we have the Oriental underworld like in James Bond films who are using the latest research and gadgets to master the world, the evil masters of the universe. The third strand is the issue of what happens when the protagonist is pushed to the brink and she is compelled to use 100 per cent brain power. The line that chap T.S.Eliot wrote about how mankind cannot bear too much information comes to mind. When the mind attains 100 per cent plant load capacity then it is just blown away.
Luc Besson makes his point through vulgar science, vulgar philosophy and the vulgar genre of a gangster film. Yes. This is science-fiction alright, but most sci-fi is either one-dimensional and at the most two-dimensional. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is the exception where it becomes three-dimensional, and it has hints of even the fourth dimension. Luc Besson makes the film, the plot and Scarlett Johansson's character and her acting two-dimensional.
Johansson is the helpless actress, where all she has to do is get that blind state and pout her lips and nothing more. There is not much acting she has to do. It would be a mistake to judge Johansson in his film for her acting. She is half-robot in a way. There are glimpses of complication, when she as Lucy becomes almost human with the Paris police officer. It would have been an interesting twist in the tale. But Luc Besson prefers the frenetic pace of a thriller and there is no time for the heart or for reflection. It is almost a simplistic philosophical thesis: human beings cannot remain human with greater mind power, and they will be blown away the moment mind reaches its full powers.
The gangster strand and the dark, wicked scientists using research to hold the world in thrall remains sketchy.
Johansson's screen presence is admirable but she needs a better role than that of a demi-monster to show her talent. She is in the mould of Angelina Jolie.
Luc Besson avoids the clouded semi-messianic, semi-sci-fi worldview of Andy and Lana Wachowski brothers in their Matrix movies, which stupid people thought to be a cinematic and philosophical breakthrough though it has to be said that ever since the three-dimensional holographic effect of the camera, every fighting scene in Hindi commercial cinema has freely used it.

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