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The Big Blue (DVD)

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      29.03.2010 15:18
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      Luc Besson goes underwater

      The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) is a 1988 film directed by Luc Besson. The story revolves around Jacques Mayol (Jean-Marc Barr), a placid and slightly odd young free-diving expert (a sport that involves plummeting to depths of sometimes 300 feet or more with no breathing apparatus) who can hold his breath underwater for an unusually long time. The free-diving world champion - an ultra-confident Italian named Enzo Molinari (Jean Reno) - knew Mayol when they were children growing up in Greece together and has him tracked him down all these years later because he knows that only Jacques can push him to endure greater depths in the ocean and set new free-diving records. "Every time I beat a record there's always someone asking me, do you know Mayol? He's supposed to be very good. Too bad he doesn't compete. So, you're going to come with me. First, because you're my friend and second, because you don't have one reason to keep on spoiling my pleasure."

      Enzo, despite his not so humble opinion of his own abilities, is haunted too by the thought that there might just be someone out there better than him. As their friendly but competitive rivalry is played out and the world free-diving championships in the Sicilian town of Taormina loom on the horizon, Jacques is also tracked down by dizzy New York insurance investigator Johanna Baker (Rosanna Arquette) - who met him once in South America and became totally obsessed to the point of chasing him around Europe. But Johanna soon begins to discover that the enigmatic Jacques is more at home in the sea than he ever has been with human beings...

      The Big Blue is one of those films I've always liked despite its evident flaws. It's far too long with meandering stretches where nothing much happens, there is little or no plot or character development, some of the acting is wooden and the humour doesn't always work. Luckily though the film really doesn't care and is primarily about the sea and the powerful hypnotic spell it casts on people. The real star of The Big Blue is the cinematography of Carlo Varini which is absolutely wonderful at times right from the sweeping title sequence which glides over the water along a rocky coastline. The opening black and white section featuring the young Jacques in Greece as a boy establishes the often dreamlike nature of the film - especially when he first dives into the sea from some rocks and everything suddenly goes silent as he becomes absorbed in this magical undersea world. Jacques wants to be become part of the sea and prefers swimming with dolphins to hanging around with people on dry land while Enzo wants to dominate the sea as if he personally owned it.

      We first meet Jacques in South America where he is swimming under the ice for the purposes of scientific research, like a cross between Aquaman and the Sub-Mariner. "He's in the fluoroscope now. Listen to his heart. The flow of blood is concentrated in the brain and doesn't even feed the limbs anymore. It's a phenomena that has only been observed with dolphins until now." An unfeasibly good looking young Jean-Marc Barr (then best known for playing a Canadian soldier in Hope and Glory) is well cast as the shy, vacant Mayol, who is almost like an alien out of the water, always innocently bewildered by the world. "Forget it," says Enzo to Johanna. "Don't think of Jacques as a human being. He's from another world." Barr makes an interesting contrast to Reno here, who is required to play much larger as the overbearing, full of himself Enzo.

      The film's offbeat atmosphere doesn't always work when it tries to be amusing but there are many memorable moments, all framed by Eric Serra's excellent and touching ambient score. Little moments like Jacques returning to Europe and endearingly visiting the dolphins in a zoo with some presents which include a ceramic llama and, of course, the many free-diving sequences where he plunges deeper and deeper into the ocean surrounded by an eerie silence, these sequences both beautiful and tense. There is a great moment too where Barr dreams/imagines water swirling around his ceiling while he is somewhat doolally in bed.

      Rosanna Arquette is not given the easiest job in the world here as love interest Johanna. Her first meeting with Barr is quite well handled and conveys an immediate attraction on her part when she first claps eyes on his handsome mug but we also get some scenes of her in New York which don't work particularly well. A strength of The Big Blue is the languid European atmosphere and these New York scenes seem slightly jarring in what is ostensibly a very personal film about the sea. Arquette is awful in what is supposed to be a funny comic scene (also involving Griffin Dunne) where she tries to find an excuse to go to Europe to go and find Mayol. Things improve when Johanna begins a tentative relationship with Jacques but this is essentially always a role that is underwritten and one that leaves the actress groping slightly at times in a vague attempt to find her character.

      The Big Blue has a dark sensual quality though beyond its obvious shortcomings and always manages to hold your attention again when Mayol's spiritual link to the sea beckons and he takes a nocturnal dip with some dolphins in the moonlight or Besson just throws some amazing images at the screen with the classy underwater photography and images of light sparkling off the water in the sun like diamonds. The sea is shot in many different ways in The Big Blue to reflect its many facets. It can be serene and pretty but also hostile and dangerous. The Big Blue is a flawed film that - restored to 168 minutes - might stretch the patience of those who don't fall for its aquatic spell but also an amazing one at times. It's hard to believe that - despite considerable success in Europe - The Big Blue was cut to ribbons, given a new ending and had the wonderful Eric Serra score replaced with one by Bill Conti for its US theatrical run! Extras with this are three trailers, a track with the musical score isolated, talent files and a photo gallery for the international ad campaign.

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        07.06.2009 10:57
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        A truly Beautiful Film

        The Big Blue was released in 1988 by Luc Besson, it is a fantastic film, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted out. It does appear to be very much out of print nowadays.

        The Film:

        Jean-Marc Barr is Jacques a diver with a deep love of the sea, he is a sweet, sensitive guy who is incredibly introverted and almost seems to be a stranger in this world, he views it all as strange and can't relate to it and only relaxes when he is himself. Jacques has the unique ability, only previously seen in Dolphins and Whales to slow his heartbeat and his circulation on deep dives. He meets Joanna (Rosanna Arquette) while having scientific tests in New York on this unique skill and she falls for this handsome manchild and follows him back to Italy where he lives.

        On his return to Italy, Jacques continues his lifelong rivalry with his friend and biggest rival, the brash Enzo (Jean Reno) both striving since boyhood to be the greatest diver ever.


        My View:

        This film is beautiful, it has a huge heart and the ocean is the real star of the piece, it is a wonderful story of love and hope, but it is also a fairy tale in the sense that the young man disassociated with life finds love but still cannot relate to it and accepts that his one true love is the sea. The scenery is exceptional, the acting is great, Barr is sweet and heroic as the main character, Arquette is very kooky and really good fun in her role and Reno is very funny as a rival to Barr, he is both exceptionally competitive and actually a really good guy underneath.

        The diving scenes are stunning, the metaphor is sublime, a man finding solace in the vast expansive ocean against the busy less relaxed earth. I really adore this film and think it is something which will stay with me forever.

        DVD's are hard to find but there are copies available on Amazon Marketplace for £9.98.

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          06.03.2008 13:25
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          Great if you love the sea. Sit back and enjoy the filming.

          This movie is amazing, simply because of the stunning visuals. As such it well worth watching even though it was released way back in 1988.

          The plot is puzzling at times and often doesn't seem to hang together. Basically, it's about Jacques Mayhol who loves the sea and most of all loves to dive. It is an obsession with him. His childhood enemy, Enzo dives too, but he does it for the money. There is romantic friction with Rosanna Arquette (Joanna), death and drama. In fact all the ingredients of a great movie are here, but it doesn't come cross convincingly in the plot.

          It is the story of a man whose passion for the sea and diving is combined with his job. Jacques lives, eats and sleeps diving. Out there in the 'Big Blue', the sea, the camera work is amazing. We are treated to an almost magical view of this dangerous environment and shown how the human body and the human spirit must adapt. This is clearly the only place where Jacques Mayhol feels really at home. He studies dolphins and is so in tune with them that he seems to be part dolphin himself.

          The cast includes Rosanna Arquette (Joanna), Jean-Marc Barr (Jacques) and Jean Reno (Enzo). The movie runs for 163 minutes.

          The English version (as opposed to the American one) has many extras on the DVD. There are interactive menus, multiple language subtitles and original theatrical trailers.

          Original story: Luc Besson.
          Screenplay: Luc Besson
          Original music: Eric Serra.
          Producer: Patrice Ledoux.
          Director: Luc Besson.

          This DVD has Dolby digital sound and is recommended for age 15 up. There are not, in my opinion, anything more that a few erotic scenes and a little violence in the film.

          My opinion:

          A great film to watch if you like the sea and want to enjoy the fabulous filming, but trying to put together the plot is confusing at times. The whole thing is quite silly and comes across as an extra add-on feature rather than the main reason for the film.

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            28.02.2008 17:38
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            A touching tale of one man's desire to be at one with the sea

            Plot:

            The plot is ridiculous, although based on a true story, but it's made so beautifully and with such grace that you can't help being drawn into Jacques' World.

            The director Luc Besson grew up around diving as his parents were both instructors, but couldn't pursue the career himself due to an accident at the age of 17, thus he decided to make a film on Jacques Mayol, someone whom he deeply admired.

            Jacques (the tasty eyecandy also known as Jean-marc Barr) has a great love for dolphins and the way in which they live their lives, and he is similar to one himself for he can control his body temperature and so forth in order to dive to great depths. His childhood enemy Enzo (Jean Reno) is also a diver, and Le Grand Bleu is their story of diving and how it has shaped their lives.

            The real difference between Jacques and Enzo, is that Jacques dives because he loves it and is genuinly fascinated by the sea, whereas Enzo just wants the glory. The film shows the wonder of finding a career that combines one's loves and one's needs, which is what diving does for Jacques.

            Joanna (Rosanna Arquette) is flown over to meet Jacques to do an interview on him for her work, but she quickly falls in love with him and wants to stay around him. Jacques however can love only the sea, and so even though he likes Joanna and enjoys her company, she can never come close to being what he needs (unless you watch the rubbish American Version).

            Jacques gets Joanna pregnant and must then face the difficult decision of seeing his child grow up, or being at one with the sea. Expect death and drama aplenty in this visual masterpiece.

            Other:

            The scenery is breathtaking, rolling landscapes, blue skies, shimmering water, all of the underwater filming and the way in which the cast intereacts with each other is amazing. The film lacks nothing, it is incredibly long, and a little drawn out, but it's so beautiful that you just don't care.

            You may need subtitles to understand Jean Reno (Enzo) though.

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              19.06.2007 14:55
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              Freediving film

              This afternoon while attempting to sort out more of my stuff (its really not easy to integrate a flatload of stuff in to a fully furnished house you know) I came across this DVD, one which I was given by a friend at uni because she hated it but I have come to love.

              The story in its simplicity is that of Jacques and his love of the sea and its creatures but also draws in Enzo a champion freediver and someone who has known Jacques since childhood, and Johana an american Insurance worker who meets Jacques in Peru where his bodily responses to being underwater and at depth are being monitored by a scientist.

              The plot as it is is sadly weak meaning the film relies on the gorgeous scenery of the locations to capture the viewer, in fact if this were a typical love story you would soon grow to hate Jacques for his somewhat shoddy treatment of Johana, but this is not the love story of Jacques and Johana but of Jacques and the sea, as such you are forced to recognise that Johana is more an accessory than a pivotal part of the story and it is the sea and his underwater family of dolphins that Jacques truely loves.

              At 163 minutes long this is a long time to be watching a film which consists of little more than scenery but some how there is something more to it, a sense that in some way it is attepting to find deeper meaning in the human curiosity for the underwater world and the respect we have for those who can even for a short time break the barriers.

              The underwater filming can be at times captivating and gorgeous and at others unutterably dull (when watching the repetitive diving up and down ropes for example) yet has some lighter moments such as the scene in the diving bell - you cant take them seriously with the pitch of the voices.

              Personally I watch the film and find that I have lost myself in the underwater scenery and even the very 1980's score by Eric Serra doesnt detract from my enjoyment (I in fact own the soundtrack on CD but without the images on screen find it annoying and overly synthesised). The fact that Jean Marc-Barr is not entirely unattractive possibly also has an effect on my enjoyment also. Though after writing this I am once again left questioning what it is that I love about the film exactly, I cant answer the question well enough to explain so it must simply be enough that I can still say I do love it even after questioning why.

              There are no real special features on the DVD, though personally I would have liked to have found information on the real life Enzo and Jacques on whom this was loosely based. Instead there are other languages which since this is an english language film arent a whole lot of use and the Original Theatrical Trailer.

              If I remember correctly this copy was purchased for about £5 from a high street retailer but according to amazon is now avaliable for £20 or more so well worth shopping around to find the best deals.

              Though not a popular film in the US it has achieved a longevity in Europe and the UK and was voted one of the top 10 Underwater films of all time by a popular UK diving magazine (I will find the article to check which one and when exactly).

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                17.04.2002 20:36
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                If you're the kind of person who likes their films action packed then look elsewhere, this is the directors cut and weighs in at around 3 hours. It basically follows the relationship of Enzo (Jean Reno) and Jacques (Jean-Marc Barr)as they grow up and become friends in adulthood. The film's great strength is the gorgeous surroundings and the direction of Luc Besson. The two main charachters are free divers and always competing with each other (Enzo in particular feels he has something to prove to the more naturally gifted Jacques), add a love interest for Jaques in the form of Rossana Arquette and you have a quite simply wonderful film. Only Dowside is the Lack of extra features with only the theatrical trailer available.... ah well, can't have everything!

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                  25.05.2001 01:29
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                  "Le Grand Bleu" is definitely one of my favourite films ever. It is a marvellous combination of passion (any way of passion), sea and landscapes (mainly in France and Italy) featuring great actors such as Jean-Marc, Jean Reno, Rosanna Arquette, Jean Bouise and I can't forget Luc Besson as a director and producer. It is firstky and simply the story of a young boy called Jacques Mayol whose father died while he was working under the sea. Jacques has a unique cahnce to hold his breath and go under water for lots and lots of minutes only with the strengh of his lungs... He will become friend with an italian boy whose name is Enzo Molinari who will become as well his direct opponent in diving sport. Their friendship is threatened by their water fight and by their strong will to get to the limits. Le Grand Bleu is also a love-story. But between who ? Becasue Jacques falls in love for this girl Johanna but he is also deeply involved with the sea and its mysteries. Jacques is getting confused as he doesn't if his love grows bigger for the dolphins (sirens of the sea) or for Johanna (being of the earth). It is also a lovely story between two friends; Jacques and Enzo. They share the same passion for diving but Enzo is more likely to be winning championships as Jacques brings more a genuine interest to this sport. Enzo constantly wants to push the limits further (like any other spotrsman or woman) He will look for Jacques to confront him in a championship. Why ? Because he knows that Jacques is the only one who can beat him. It is finally a great music produced by Eric Serra who has composed so many soundtracks for Luc Besson. At last I would advise you to rent or buy the film and the CD as well. For my part I have the CD and I used to put my daughter to sleep playing this music with a lava-lamp in the bedroom: great sensations. Whenever I listen to it it just remembers me good feelings and I alsways want to achieve more after. So just go
                  for it.

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                    22.10.2000 16:37
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                    Director Luc Besson's The Big Blue,(Le Grand Bleu) has been my all time favourite film, since I saw it in Brittany in the late 80's. I didn't quite know what to expect on that beautiful summer's evening in August when we queued for the late showing at the little cinema in La Baule, a small resort on the Cote Sauvage in Southern Brittany. But from the moment the film began I was spellbound and began to understand why the cinema was packed and why the film was fast becoming a cult film in France. The story is loosely based on the life of real life free diver Jacques Mayol, played by the incredibly attractive Jean Marc Barr, and is woven around the almost spiritual link between Jacques and his fascination and affinity with the sea and his "family", the dolphins swimming in the 'big blue'. The film opens in Greece in 1965, where two boys growing up in a small coastal village, Jacques and his friend Enzo, engage in friendly rivalry around their budding diving skills. When Jacques father is killed in a tragic diving accident, Jacques goes to join his mother in America and the two friends are not to meet up again for many years. The film then moves to Peru in 1984, where the naive and childlike man that Jacques has become, meets Johanna, (Rosanna Arquette, of Desperately Seeking Susan and New York Stories fame), who is an insurance underwriter. Johanna has travelled through the Andes to Peru to check out the loss of a truck under the ice, and meets Jacques who is engaged in dangerous diving experiments below the broken ice of the lake. Totally fascinated by him, she follows him from Peru to a free diving competition in Sicily where he is competing against his childhood friend,Enzo. The competition has attracted the best free divers from around the world - *( Free divers use no equipment and compete to see who can dive the deepest before needing to come up for air.) The two fri
                    ends succeed by a method of controlling their heart rate and breathing which allows them to descend to record breaking depths. But while Jacques is in it purely for his spiritual affinity with and love for the sea, Enzo is driven by the danger and excitement of the competition. He is aware that the only other diver in the world who can take his World Champion title, is Jacques, and wants to prove once and for all that he (Enzo) is the true champion. The story emphasis both the rivalry and friendship between Jacques and Enzo,(the latter played by the wonderful Jean Reno of Nikita, Leon and The Professional, amongst others), and the passion between Johanna and Jacques who, because of his increasing obsession with the world beneath the Big Blue, finds himself somehow unable to totally commit to a relationship with her. This a magical film with a slightly surreal quality, mainly due to the portrayl of Jacques by Jean Marc Barr, at that time, a new sensation in French cinema. It is Luc Bessons's third film and his first foray into an english language film. You will, no doubt, recognise his other film successes, Le Dernier Combat, Nikita, The Professional, Subway, all enjoyable films in their own right, but for me, The Big Blue is in a class of its own. The stunning widescreen cinematography, film locations and intense musical score by Eric Serra, enhance an absolutely wonderful movie, a movie which is a mixture of fact and fable. The filming of Jacques with the dolphins is endearing and absolutely wonderful. Twelve years on and the film continues to have a cult following in Europe. I saw it again at London's National Film Theatre; it really is worth trying to catch it on a large, wide screen. For some inexplicable reason, there were several versions of this film, of different lengths and endings. These shortened versions had essential scenes cut from the middle of the film which rendered the film
                    slightly puzzling. Then in 1994, Fox Video issued The Big Blue - Version Longue on videotape in the UK. This is a 168 minute 'extended cut' with all of the footage restored. The film has recently been re-released on DVD by Columbia, a "director's cut" - with very mixed reports on its quality. I was lucky enough to find The Fox Video widescreen limited edition VHF copy, which is stunning. Now I'm saving for the right wide screen TV to watch it on! I do hope I have persuaded you to go and find this film somewhere, (I'm sure Tower Records stock it, or you could wait to see if they show it somewhere.) Whatever you decide, you won't regret it!

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                      24.09.2000 04:46
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                      I work in media (I'm a video editor using Avid) and often, at nights out or whatever, the "What's your favourite movie" thing comes up. And, without missing a beat, I immediately shout this one out at the top of my voice. I still don't know why. I'm normally a fan of big noises, big stars and big boo...(oops, no swearing!) But this one just caught me off guard. To anyone who hasn't seen, or heard about it, it centers around one of the most dumb as5 sports in the world. Not that I'm putting it down, but to wake up one morning and decide that you want to dedicate your life to trying to drown my diving deep and long, takes a certain kind of mind! But, the thing is, this, and "The Frenchman's" simbiotic relationship with dolphons isn't what makes the film so good. From the opening shot tracking over the water, with the gorgeous theme playing, I just start to smile - and it keeps on going from there. The music from Eric Serra fits each and every piece pefectly, it's as though he wrote the music for the film, while Luc Besson wrote filmed the pictures to the music. Turn the volume down, watch the pictures, the film is stunning, switch off the screen and listen to the audio, you'll still be left in a trance. I still can't put my finger on why this movie affects me so much every time I watch it, if someone can explain this, please don't tell me - I don't want to know. all I know is that when I turn off my system in 5 minutes, I'm going to watch it again - this has got me in the mood!! Oh, by the way, get the version longue. It's VERY long, but it's the only way to see it. C.ya Recess www.recess.co.uk

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                        19.09.2000 05:00
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                        This is one of my favourite movies. It is written and directed by Luc Besson who’s other films include Nikita, Leon and the Fifth Element. As with many of Besson’s films, the story is quite different from most films and deals with the sport of free diving, where you dive without oxygen. There are two men competing against each other to dive to the furthest reaches of the sea. For Enzo, played by Jean Reno, it is the glory and obsession with winning that drives him but with Jaques, played by the gorgeous Jean-marc Barr, there is a deeper connection with the sea and the dolphins who live in it. Rosanna Arquette plays the woman who falls deeply in love with Jaques even though she knows his heart lies with the sea. As Jaques dives beyond human endurance, it becomes clear there is something different about him. It is beautifully filmed with spectacular diving scenes that let you appreciate the allure of the sea for these two men.

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                          15.09.2000 18:37
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                          The Big Blue ranks in my top 10 films of all time, as it is one of the best works by French director Luc Besson, and one of his earliest. You will be stunned by the beauty and sheer love and care that has gone into almost every frame and shot of this visual feast. Based around thhe world of free-diving, where divers see how deep they can go on just one breath, and two child-hood friends/rivals meet again in a world championship, and Jacques Mayhol (Jean-Marc Barr) has become involved with a woman, but it seems he is more at home under-water. An often emotional story, but gripping from the opening black and white sequence to the last of it's 163 minutes, The Big Blue can so easily be a film that you will watch again and again. If you have the option, and the hardware, buy the DVD, and it will do justice to the stunning visuals, and features the usual scene access, language/subtitle options, and original trailer, but that is it. But with the quality of the main feature, you wont feel cheated by the lack of additional features.

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                            29.07.2000 00:23
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                            No this is not some erotic blue movie but one of the best films of all times. Directed by Luc Besson of Leon fame The Big Blue is the story of a free diving champion and his attempts to push himself further and further. As you'd expect from a Genuis like Besson this film is moving and compelling to watch and is the kind of film you will want to watch again. I'm not sure if this is a pretty cliquey film cause I don't know anyone who has seen it. I'd definately recommend this to any film lovers - if you liked Leon you will love this.

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                          • Product Details

                            A hit in Europe but a flop in the US--where it was trimmed, rescored, and given a new ending--Luc Besson's The Big Blue has endured as a minor cult classic for its gorgeous photography (both on land and underwater) and dreamy ambiance. Jean-Marc Barr is a sweet and sensitive but passive presence as Jacques, a diver with a unique connection to the sea. He has the astounding ability to slow his heartbeat and his circulation on deep dives, "a phenomenon that's only been observed in whales and dolphins until now," remarks one scientist. Kooky New York insurance adjuster Joanna (Rosanna Arquette at her most delightfully flustered and endearingly sexy best) melts after falling into his innocent baby blues, and she follows him to Italy, where he's continuing a lifelong competition with boyhood rival Enzo (Jean Reno in a performance both comic and touching). Besson's first English-language production looks more European than Hollywood, and it suffers from a tin ear for the language. At times it feels more like an IMAX undersea documentary than a drama about free divers, but the lush and lovely images create a fairy tale dimension to Jacques's story, a veritable Little Merman. More dolphin than man, he's so torn between earthly love and aquatic paradise that even his dreams call him to the sea (in a sequence more eloquent than any speech). Besson has expanded the film by 50 minutes for his director's cut, which adds little story but slows the contemplative pace until it practically floats in time, and has restored Eric Serra's synthesizer-heavy score, a slice of 1980s pop that at times borders on disco kitsch. Most importantly, he has restored his original ending, which echoes the fairy tale he tells Joanna earlier in the film and leaves the story floating in the inky blackness of ambiguity. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.com