November 27, 2009 / 4:49 PM / in 9 years

Luc Besson says the French are his harshest critics

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - French film director Luc Besson, known worldwide for blockbusters like “The Big Blue” and “The Fifth Element,” says his movies face the toughest criticism at home where they are seen as not quite “French enough.”

French film director and producer Luc Besson gives a speech after receiving the Stockholm Visionary Award at the 20th Stockholm International Film Festival in this November 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Marc Femenia/Scanpix

The spiky-haired director told Reuters on Friday that he had sometimes struggled with skepticism and narrow-mindedness when trying to find support for his film projects in France.

“Every time I try to make a film, the first reaction I have from the French ... is always the same reaction you have with the French people: c’est pas possible,” he said in an interview in the Swedish capital.

“It’s true — ‘Big Blue’, ‘Subway’, all these films were not in the real boxes that the French want, they are not French enough. So I have to fight a little, and I get used to that.”

Besson, in Sweden to collect the Visionary Award from the Stockholm Film Festival, has met success at the box office with his spectacular features, but often gets a cold shoulder from critics who see him favoring style over substance.

“In my case, for example, in France, they (critics) sometimes spend 3, 4, 5 pages to say how bad my film is, but on the next page you have 10 lines about this little film that they think is a masterpiece,” he said.

“What about spending 5 pages to say that? That would be an excellent relationship between creators and critics.”

Paris-born Besson, described in one newspaper profile as the most Hollywood of current French film makers, said he was not concerned about being embraced by France’s film establishment.

“That’s not the point, we don’t care so much in fact,” he said. “We are maybe the first generation of a big melting pot — I’m watching American film, I’m eating sushi, I’m listening to English music — I come here and eat salmon.”

“I’m a little bit American, a little bit Chinese, a little bit Swedish, and a little bit French,” he added, sipping tea.

Precocious and hugely productive, Besson started his career at 19 with a science fiction film shot in black and white. He now heads a film production company, EuropaCorp, and has been involved with over 50 film projects.

Still, he said he had little nostalgia for the struggle and uncertainty of being a young film director.

“We could only shoot in the afternoon because from 9 to 12 we were looking for money,” he said. “I would show up at the shooting at 5 to 12, switch gears and could only shoot two scenes before running out of film.”

“Now we have the time to prepare the movie, it’s much more comfortable,” he added.

Besson has tried his hand at a wide range of genres, from action to drama and science fiction fantasy. His latest film, “Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard,” is a children’s movie using computer-generated images and will be released worldwide in early December.

Asked if there was a must-see movie — aside from his own — that he could recommend to fans, Besson rattled off a list of three: American comedy “Juno,” the Oscar-winning “Little Miss Sunshine,” and German drama “The Lives of Others.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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