Arguably the top French director of photography working in films, Thierry Arbogast has won a reputation not only for being fearless enough to shoot in any place, any heat, any season, but also for his...
Based on books by Besson (yes he writes books too) we meet Arthur (Freddie Highmore) a 10-year-old kid living on his grandparents’ farm. But there’s trouble: Arthur’s grandfather has mysteriously disappeared and now a real estate developer wants the land Arthur’s grandma (Mia Farrow) doesn’t have enough money to keep. Maybe the solution lies in his grandpa's treasure which is hidden somewhere on the "other side" in the land of the Minimoys. Who are the Minimoys you ask? Why they are creatures that live in Arthur’s backyard just a tenth of an inch tall--that’s who. The only hope is for Arthur to enter into this miniature world become a little pointy-earred wild-haired Minimoy find the treasure in the forbidden city and save the day. For this adventurous boy that’s no problem. Arthur and the Invisibles doesn’t lack star power that’s for sure. Along with sweet-faced high-spirited Highmore (taking a step down from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in my opinion) and Farrow (who looks a little Minimoy-ish herself) we have the voices of: Madonna as the plucky Minimoy warrior princess; Jimmy Fallon as her younger klutzy brother; Robert De Niro as their father the king; Harvey Keitel as a kindly wizard; Snoop Dogg as a weird-looking miniature denizen who runs a dance club; and David Bowie as the evil ruler of the forbidden city. That’s some eclectic lineup--too bad they couldn’t all click. Poor Madonna--even her animated voice-over efforts can’t make the grade. We all know how creative French filmmaker Luc Besson can be. His offbeat sensibilities can be seen in his tense crime dramas La Femme Nikita and The Professional as well as his wildly imaginative sci-fi cult favorite The Fifth Element. But he’s been taking a break from making his own films producing and apparently writing children’s books instead. Arthur and the Invisibles is his first directorial effort since the 1999 movie The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc and while it definitely taps into Besson’s fanciful notions--which is probably even more evident in the novels--it doesn’t necessarily translate as well to the big screen. Invisibles’ animation is lush and there’s a lot to look at but it’s almost too busy while the tepid yet convoluted story drones on. Invisibles is definitely not adult-friendly.
Sultry culinary genius Isabella (Penélope Cruz) leads an idyllic life running a seaside restaurant in Brazil with her husband Toninho (Murilo Benício) - until she finds Toninho in bed with another woman that is. Heartbroken she heads off to San Francisco and immediately finds work as -- what else? -- the host of a TV cooking show. Screwball comedy complications ensue as a prayer to a Brazilian goddess goes awry Isabella's show becomes a hit and a penitent Toninho arrives to try and win his wife back.
Perma-pouting Spanish dish Cruz ("All About My Mother") is a solid actress with an excess of on-screen charisma but she isn't particularly well served by her first Hollywood starring vehicle. Hampered by their thick accents she and hunky Brazilian co-star Benício ("Orfeu") fight their way through hokey exchanges that have no business being in English anyway. (The whole film would have gone down more smoothly in Brazil's romantic tongue Portuguese.) Of the supporting players Harold Perrineau ("The Best Man") generates the most sparks putting a surprisingly fresh spin on one of the more tired modern screen clichés: the strapping black drag queen.
Venezuelan-born helmer Fina Torres ("Celestial Clockwork") adopts the candy-shop approach to commercial storytelling packing her film with enough sexy stars bright South American colors and tangy bossa nova tunes to distract viewers from the lame predictability of Vera Blasi's script. Pinching ingredients from the Mexican food-and-sex smash "Like Water For Chocolate " the filmmakers cobble together a passable romantic fantasy in the Latin American magical-realist tradition. Too bad most of the comedy falls flatter than a Brazilian crèpe.
Worked with Luc Besson for first time on "La Femme Nikita"
Firmed international reputation with "Le hussard sur le toit/The Horseman on the Roof"
Shot first English-language film, Besson's "The Professional"
Was director of photography on Patrice Leconte's "Ridicule"
Broke in as director of photography working on "Le Prefere" and "Les Jacondes"
Shot first US feature "She's So Lovely"
Began working in films as camera assistant at age 17
Worked with Luc Besson on big budget "The Fifth Element"
Arguably the top French director of photography working in films, Thierry Arbogast has won a reputation not only for being fearless enough to shoot in any place, any heat, any season, but also for his ground-breaking mixing of film stocks during production on a single film, his intense preparation for each film, and his oft-stylized, oft-mesmerizing composition, usually featuring a manipulated color palette, and controlled but efficient lighting. Arbogast has worked with numerous French directors, but American audiences are aware of him mostly though his association with director Luc Besson on "La Femme Nikita" (1990), "The Professional" (1994) and "The Fifth Element" (1997).<p>Unlike most other French cinematographers, Arbogast did not attend film school. Rather, he began working as an assistant on features while still a teenager. By 1983, he was a full-fledged director of photography, working with Marc-Andre Grynbaum on "Le Prefere" and Jean-Daniel Pillault on "Les Jocondes". His reputation began to grow rapidly after "La Femme Nikita", as his composition was both distancing and revealing at the same time, the colors muted yet the light at times piercing. In 1991, Arbogast shot Eric Barbier's "Le Brassier", in which he framed a romance with muted warm tones and at the same time created the feel of a dirty, dank mining town. His work on "The Professional" (the first in the English language for both) again revealed harshness, yet at the same time the audience is drawn into the emotions of the characters. Arbogast won the Best Cinematography Cesar for his sumptuous work on Jean-Paul Rappenau's period drama "Le Hussard sur le toit/The Horseman on the Roof" (1995), and he won critical praise for his work on Gilles Mimouni's "L'Appartment" (1996), in which the green was entirely removed from the color palette in order to create a stylized--even severe--difference between the past and present. Arbogast further enhanced his reputation with his stunning work on Patric Leconte's "Ridicule" (1996), which seemed bright, almost like the Technicolor fantasy of old musicals, yet turned deadly serious and alienating when required.<p>Arbogast, who is known for spending up to six months preparing for a film, joined with Besson again for the sci-fi fantasy "The Fifth Element". With their highest budget to date, the pair brought to the screen a comic-book effect that many critics felt sold the picture more than its story. Arbogast resisted working in Hollywood for many years, despite the gobs of money thrown at him, in part because he was being offered the best French films by the best French directors. But he relented with Nick Cassavetes' "She's So Lovely" (1997), again skillfully using light to differentiate the time periods of the film. Arbogast won the Grand Prix Technique at 1997 Cannes Film Festival for his efforts on both "The Fifth Element" and "She's So Lovely".
"Arbogast can afford to be picky. He gets offered the cream of the crop in France." --a rival DP to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, May 14, 1996