Going deep - Le Grand Bleu

Oliver Spencer's Spring 21 collection was inspired by the British coastline, with all its diversity of colours and textures. But Oli also called upon one of his favourite summer films, being the sucker for nostalgia that he is. That film was Le Grand Bleu. Directed by the visual gourmand that is Luc Besson and released in 1988, Le Grand Bleu (which was filmed in English despite the foreign cast and French title, a fact which has to gnaw on our Gallic cousins!) is the tale of two freedivers; childhood friends and rivals, both of whom seem better equipped to deal with the dangers posed by thousands of tonnes of water above their heads, than the earthbound trials of daily life on terra firma. Down in the deep blue, they beautifully haunt the vaulting stillness, deftly navigating their respective souls in an exploration of man, nature, ontology and the great many unknowables. Oh, and dolphins, but we'll come to them.

When it was released, the film became an instant cult classic, in no small part to the admittedly achingly beautiful underwater scenes that Besson shoots with exquisite skill and stunning lighting, and only enhanced by the depths of synth that Eric Serra's keyboards are willing to explore. (Serra's score was number 1 in album sales in France for more than six months, with more than 3.5 million albums sold worldwide, and earned Serra multiple notable French music awards.)

CONDUIT T-SHIRT ASHAM OATMEAL/NAVY

CONDUIT T-SHIRT
ASHAM OATMEAL/NAVY

ELLINGTON OVERSHIRT BUCKDEN BLUE

ELLINGTON OVERSHIRT
BUCKDEN BLUE

JUDO TROUSERS RUSHMORE NAVY

JUDO TROUSERS
RUSHMORE NAVY

"It was actually the soundtrack that put me onto the film," says Oli. "I remember it so vividly because I was in Paris staying with my friend Joel - it must have been 1989 I think - and we spent an entire summer's day on the balcony of his flat looking out over Paris with Serra's soundtrack on loop in the background! It was surreal, one of those hard-to-explain moments when sound, emotion, light and the moment all just harmonise to create something unique." 

As for the plot, well, don't hold your breath... it's bonkers, presumably written during a bout of the bends, but don't let that get in the way of the stunning, zen-like visuals and underwater psycho-geography. 

CONDUIT T-SHIRT GRAND NAVY

CONDUIT T-SHIRT
GRAND NAVY

CONDUIT T-SHIRT GRAND OATMEAL

CONDUIT T-SHIRT
GRAND OATMEAL

The plot, for what it's worth, centres on the aforementioned childhood friends Enzo and Jacques (played by Jean Reno and the impossibly chiselled Jean-Marc Barr), long since grown apart but moored together by the rope of competitive freediving. (Note, the film was actually based on the real freedivers Jacques Mayol and Enzo Maoico, but to say that the film is based on a true story makes Pinocchio look like he has a perfectly formed nose). 

 

BOX T-SHIRT NETLEY BLUE

BOX T-SHIRT
NETLEY BLUE

LYMINGTON AVIATOR SUNGLASSES SILVER AZURE LENS

LYMINGTON AVIATOR SUNGLASSES
SILVER AZURE LENS

JUDO SHORTS EDEN NAVY

JUDO SHORTS
EDEN NAVY

Eventually they reunite at a competition in Italy where Jacques is the only man who can rival Enzo for the prize. In the meantime, tiptoeing into the flick from literally nowhere comes an American marine scientist called Johana, played by Rosanne Arquette, who predictably becomes besotted by the half-man, half dolphin that is Jacques. Jacques, by the way, legitimately feels akin to the porpoise species - he even carries a picture of his "dolphin family" in his wallet, which Johana somehow finds endearing, where most others would be wondering how this person escaped from the asylum.

In short, love and rivalry lead both men to watery graves, leaving Johana literally out to dry with a baby on the way (one wonders if it will have a bottlenose and make clicking noises?). That said, she does give Jacques the green light to make the transition to fish food so she is an accomplice of sorts and we can't feel too sorry for her. This rather morose ending was actually deemed to sad for the US audience (a delicate bunch) and was changed to a more uplifting climax, with Jacques remerging from the chasm of sea on the back of one of his trusted dolphins. 

CONDUIT T-SHIRT ASHAM SKY BLUE/NAVY

CONDUIT T-SHIRT ASHAM
SKY BLUE/NAVY

WESTON JERSEY SHORTS ARLISS ECRU

WESTON JERSEY SHORTS
ARLISS ECRU

BEAULIEU AVIATOR SUNGLASSES YELLOW GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

BEAULIEU AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES YELLOW
GOLD BLACK/GREY LENS

BLENHEIM JUMPER SIDNEY NAVY/ECRU

BLENHEIM JUMPER
SIDNEY NAVY/ECRU

OSBORNE AVIATOR SUNGLASSES WHITE GOLD GREEN LENS

OSBORNE AVIATOR
SUNGLASSES WHITE
GOLD GREEN LENS

DRAWSTRING TROUSERS FALKE CREAM

DRAWSTRING TROUSERS
FALKE CREAM

All ribbing aside, Le Grand Bleu is mesmerising from every angle above and below the water line. Jacques and Enzo make for great stylish foils, brothers of the sea but with very different characters. Their style speaks of endless summers spent bronzing along myriad Mediterranean coastlines, wearing easy singlets and tees, printed short-sleeve shirts, and there's even a cameo for two tuxedos. As insouciantly cool as the two divers are, the landscape is even more magnificent, with filming locations including Antibes, Taormina in Sicily, Peru, the US Virgin Islands, and the Cyclades in Greece.

Le Grand Bleu takes us on a dreamlike escape and while it's mostly set under the water, one can constantly feel the warm alluring glow of the Mediterranean. Let's face it, that's what we've all been missing for the best part of a year and this film delivers it with ethereal beauty. If you're longing for a getaway, Le Grand Bleu will make that yearning go even deeper.

 

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