Luc Besson’s Anna stars supermodel actress Sasha Luss as the achingly — in the sense that she produces a lot of physical pain for anyone she who gets on her wrong side — beautiful killer in the titular role. The part is somewhat reminiscent of Charlize Theron’s in the take no prisoners action film Atomic Blonde which recieved a double review from L & D. I was interested in watching Anna knowing it was the work of auteur Writer/Director Luc Besson. He is known for one of my favorite films, Leon: The Professional, which was Natalie Portman’s first film and had a great performance by Jean Reno. You also know his work with The Fifth Element and another one of my favorites, Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. Lucy is another style first, kick-ass woman in a take no prisoners role. Besson knows how to visually translate style and action from his screenplays.
I’m a fan of unmotivated elements of style in the films I make and watch. Why did the camera move that way? Well, it just felt right. Or, where did that pink light come from? Well, that pink light came from exactly where you think the music in this film came from. It’s not like there is a musician actively scoring your life. Yet music that isn’t actually in the physical reality of a scene (aka non-diegetic sound) is given a free pass in our movie viewing. It’s a little tougher to get away with unmotivated, unnaturalistic elements in terms of lighting, camera movement and editing but it’s something that I appreciate and an audience will get behind or “suspend their disbelief” if it is done well. And to answer the question, the music and lighting all come from the same place, the imagination of the Director.
Interestingly, most Directors work in obscurity. For example, can you tell me who directed Saturday Night Fever, War Games and Blue Thunder? The answer is John Badham. You’d think that this would be common instead of trivial knowledge. To be known as a Director, it helps to have a distinct style, whether you work within a movement or blaze your own trail. And even then to say something is _________ esque means that you weren’t taken seriously at some point. But also that you stuck to what you thought was the most honest version of storytelling for you — your distinct style. Sometimes films that are made by particular directors don’t have their stamp. Perhaps it was a studio film where they didn’t have control. But in this case Anna is one hundred percent Bessonesque from the John Wick meets Hardcore Henry throwdown in the restaurant to the really beautiful plan sequence (aka oner) in the bedroom closet, which reminded me of the confessional scene in Coppola’s masterpiece, The Conversation. If you have never seen The Conversation on DVD with the audio commentary by sound editor/ designer Walter Murch on, do yourself a cinematic favor and check it out. There are other nods to The Conversaton in Anna as well.
Anna contains a lot of the scenes and elements which we have come to expect from the recent heroine driven international spy genre: the car chase in little European streets, the lesbian love affair, the plain ol’ just ass-kicking of entitled / douchey / know it all men — and it’s all pretty satisfying stuff. It is also executed with a ton of silky yet heart pumping style. I’m already looking forward to Besson’s next offering.