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Director Besson praises charms of 'photogenic' Taiwan

French director Luc Besson, whose new film showcases Taiwan's capital as the home of its heroine, praised Taipei as one of the world's most photogenic cities when he visited on Tuesday (Aug 19) for its local premiere.

TAIPEI: French director Luc Besson, whose new film showcases Taiwan's capital as the home of its heroine, praised Taipei as one of the world's most photogenic cities when he visited on Tuesday (Aug 19) for its local premiere. Besson came to Taiwan last year to shoot the science-fiction film "Lucy", the biggest movie production on the island since director Ang Lee's Oscar-winning "Life of Pi" was partly shot there in 2011. 

At a press conference to promote "Lucy", which goes on release in Taipei on Wednesday, the director - who also wrote the script - waxed lyrical about a city little known to film-makers. Nearly one hour of the film features scenes from Taipei, including the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, Taoyuan international airport, some street scenes and the popular stemmed dumplings.

"I think most of the charm is from the people," Besson said. "They always smile, they are very happy. The criminality is near zero in your country, which is a concept we don't understand in Europe. I think the people give the flavour to the town." He added: "Some cities are very photogenic and some others are not at all. Paris is very photogenic and Taipei is very photogenic too."

The director said "Lucy" - about a woman who becomes superhuman by using 100 per cent of her brain - has something for everyone as a thriller with a philosophical message. It stars Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson in the title role as a student living in Taipei.

The movie explores what a simple woman who is slightly lost will do when she is suddenly given "the most amazing knowledge", Besson said. "Some young audience may like the film just for the action and the fun," he said. "Maybe they don't catch everything, they will catch it later, and the adults can enjoy the chase and the stunt but also the content, so I think everybody will be happy," he said.

"If you don't like action or philosophy, you still can watch the nice dress and Scarlett Johansson in it, and if you don't like Scarlett, there are gorgeous shots about Taipei," said Besson, who also directed "La Femme Nikita" and "Leon".

Besson described "Lucy" as a thriller with a philosophical message that examines what people do with power when they have it. "So there is a real question about power - who deserves that power. I think the only thing you can really do with power is to pass it on, because we have 100 billion cells in our bodies who die everyday and they pass what they know to the other cell."

Besson said he depicted the lead character as a normal, vulnerable and not very intelligent woman unsure what to do with her life in order to highlight the transformation after tapping her brain's fullest potential. The story of a rich person winning the lottery would be uninteresting.

"But if you take one of the poorest persons and she wins the lotto, then it becomes interesting. That's what happened with Lucy. We take not the worst girl in town but someone very normal and we give her all these powers to see how she reacts."

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