Le Grand Bleu on 6Ter: from critical shipwreck to generational success

Great success of the year 1988 (with more than 9 million admissions), the career of the Big Blue had a very bad start with the press, at the Cannes Film Festival. Back on this bad start, saved by word of mouth during the theatrical release.

Huge success in cinemas, with nearly 9.2 million admissions recorded in 1988, Le Grand Bleu established itself as the biggest cinema success in France that year. Carried by a very good word of mouth from the spectators, the film conquered the general public, and acquired the status of cult film with a whole generation.

Undisputed success thanks to the public, but a stormy start in the face of criticism. Presented at the opening at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, Le Grand Bleu received an icy reception from the press, about which Luc Besson poured out in his book of memoirs, Enfant terrible, published by XO editions in 2019.

The filmmaker does not hide his bitterness and the violence with which he lived this moment: “9:30 am. First press screening. At the grand palace. I am opposite, sitting at the back of the bar of the Majestic, eating my nails. No way to approach the palace. (…) The first feedback comes to me. The film was hissed. Boo. The rumor of a disaster invades the Croisette, like a mist announcing death. Already, I see people laughing, others who no longer dare to meet my gaze, still others who move away. A flop in Cannes is like having the plague. “, he wrote.

And to add: “Is that all I have left of these years of work? Of those hundreds of hours spent underwater? My body is emptying. My base crumbles. Even my loved ones move away, as if I were radioactive. The moment is incredibly violent. I will never be able to forget it.“Luc Besson also recounts in detail how he experienced the film’s traditional press conference in Cannes, as well as the first interviews. The director describes the worst-case scenario, with a lot of tension between his team and the journalists.

Like a snub to this poor critical reception, the Grand Bleu poster will feature as a slogan: “Don’t go, it lasts three hours!“As we know today, success will finally be there. The film will remain on the bill for 60 weeks.”The Big Blue becomes a social phenomenon and will be considered the film of the decade“, writes Luc Besson, proud and happy to have filled the rooms, in spite of a”horrible press“.”I’m 29 years old. Nothing will be the same from now on. Success and money are factors that are still unknown to me and that I will have to learn to manage. The world will be bigger, but friends rarer and enemies more numerous. “

The Big Blue is the biggest success of Luc Besson’s career in France, ahead of Le Cinquième element (7.7 M) and Arthur et les minimoys (6.4 M).

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