January 17, 2012

The Cinematography of Leon: The Professional

Leon is a loner. Making friends isn’t exactly part of the life of a seasoned hit man, though he prefers the gentler term “cleaner”. He spends his non killing time in a modest tenement apartment caring for a houseplant, drinking lots of milk and taking in Gene Kelly matinees.

All of that changes when his neighbor Matilda lands on his doorstep after her family is brutally murdered. Matilda is completely fascinated by Leon in the most Freudian way: she sees him as both father figure and potential lover. Though she’s only twelve and still figuring out exactly what a lover is. Things stay platonic, and Leon agrees to teach her the ropes of cleaning in exchange for teaching him how to read.

They take on small jobs together with Matilda as the bait and Leon doing the heavy lifting. When he’s on bigger assignments she sits at home plotting revenge on the men that killed her family, a pack of goons led by an unhinged pill popping Gary Oldman. Oldman always plays the best villains. The relationship between the precocious Matilda (Natalie Portman) and a stoic Leon (Jean Reno, marry me.) is charming.

Costume designer Magali Guidasci adds additional dimension to their characters, especially in Matilda’s mix of masculine army bomber, delicate lace, Vidal Sasoon-esque razor bob and the quintessential nineties accessory: the choker. Her bold look is the perfect balance to Leon’s modest suspenders, wool beanie and circular shades. Luc Besson’s film was a slick and refreshing update to the buddy movie, that’s both action packed and heartfelt. Read a full review here.

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