Film & Television



The Professional

A Fresh View of Intergenerational Relations

The Professional
 by David Em

HAVE YOU EVER READ in a newspaper about any movie: "This Lolita-with-a-Luger setup gets milked for quarts of heartache and furtive hard-ons. . . enjoyably outrageous, and a pedophile's paradise"? That's what the San Francisco Bay Guardian has been saying about Luc Besson's first Hollywood movie, The Professional (called Léon in France).

PortmanIn somewhat of a coup, Besson (the French director of La Femme Nikita) has managed to produce a film that explodes some of the current social and cultural assumptions concerning intergenerational relationships. This is a must-see movie for boy-lovers, despite the fact that the 12-year-old star, Natalie Portman is female. The movie could not have acheived distribution in the US with a boy falling in love with the hitman who saves his life (as this girl does). The fact that any widely distributed US movie involves a preteen living with and in love with an adult is amazing. Beyond that, The Professional gives the youth character a strong voice. Her initiative and her decisions are the motive force that drives the movie to its climax. Young Portman is very convincing most of the time as well as very cute, making the film a guaranteed favorite in every girl-lover's video collection.

Natalie PortmanThe director's attention to Portman's attractiveness prompted, in a rather smutty review from Newsweek, charges of corruption and child pornography (of course, now that the Supreme Court has decided that pictures of clothed children can be ruled pornography, they may have a point). Newsweek (November 21, 1994) continues: "See huge close-ups of her precociously beautiful face aesthetically bruised and bloodied. Glom her in a T-shirt, provocatively poked by her budding breasts."

I found the other main character, the "cleaner" played by Jean Reno, one that both I and probably most boy-lovers can identify with. An illegal immigrant, he is largely isolated from mainstream America and its language, which he neither reads nor writes. Solitary and alienated, he spends his free time at home doting over his one safe, non-exploiting companion: his house plant. He is, in fact, very reluctant to get involved with the young character portrayed by Portman.



Finally, The Professional satisfied my feelings of justice. The girl's family is shown without the usual sentimentality characteristic of American films. Moreover, the forces of evil, in a movie where none of the characters are angels, are shown to be the sadistic, dope-pushing villains from the US Drug Enforcement Agency and the cops. In the end, the demonized, would-be pervert is revealed to be a hero of sorts, in a way that speaks directly to Besson's intended, young, audience.

Fair warning: those who have not been desensitized to violence, as most American moviegoers have, along with those who have a soft spot in their heart for cops, should avoid this movie. Getting this story before a mass American audience (one which included a high proportion of young viewers) required packaging it as a high"action" (read: violence) film. Although kind-natured boy-lovers may object, the film could be viewed as a co-optation of the "culture of violence" for liberatory ends. Besson did what it took to get his film seen, and I, for one, am glad he did.




From NAMBLA Bulletin, Vol. 16, No. 2, Pg. 42, Aug. 1995.
Copyright © NAMBLA, 2008

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