Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981)

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981)

#1 Post by Michael » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:16 am

Diva

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Director Jean-Jacques Beineix launched the Cinema Du Look movement with this stylish cult thriller that remains as innovative today as when it premiered in 1981. Jules (Frederic Andrei), a young postal carrier, illegally tapes a concert of a reclusive opera singer (American soprano Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez). Jules' attempts to woo the diva are interrupted when Taiwanese bootleggers come after the recording. His problems worsen when a prostitute slips another tape, one that incriminates a police chief, into his bag. Jules must escape the police chief, the cop's henchmen and the bootleggers to keep both precious tapes safe - and to stay alive. Featuring critically acclaimed cinematography and a celebrated chase through the Paris Metro, Diva earned Cesar Awards for Best Music, Best Cinematography and Best Directorial Debut.

• Scene-specific commentary with director Jean-Jacques Beineix
• "Searching for Diva" cast and crew interviews

....

When I was about 13 years old, I read an article about Diva in the Village Voice, the magazine that I used to read religiously at the local libraries every week. Diva sounded so spectacular that I decided to catch a four-hour Greyhound trek down to Manhattan just to watch Diva playing at the Waverly. Indeed that little French film turned out to be so spectacular!

More than twenty years later, I still love Diva. Everything still holds up perfectly. The music is wonderfully diverse - opera, pop, classical...Cosma's piano sequences are masterpieces in their own right. What can I say about the cinematography? The slow tracking shots of the crumbling opera house that open Diva give me goosebumps every time. Oh that lighthouse scene! So gorgeous! Diva's array of characters is inventive and miraculous - thugs, crooked cops, Taiwanese music pirates, the recording-shy American opera singer, the opera-loving postman who adores her, a Vietnamese gamine, an eccentric loner guy in his 40s. Diva is also famous for the way it interplays several elements - the tape mixup: one pirated by the postman at an opera concert and the other providing evidence to destroy an international prostitution-drug ring, and also the sweet romance blooming between the postman and the singer..the new, wonderful friendships taking place...all so deftly handled that all you can do is sit back amazed...

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

#2 Post by zedz » Tue Oct 04, 2005 4:14 pm

Ooh, nostalgia. . .

I remember when this film was the coolest thing imaginable and it ran for a year at a tiny art-house cinema, during which time my clique saw it several times. When I saw it again about ten years ago it hadn't held up all that well, though its lunatic diversity still seemed fresh. It was still miles ahead of its cinema du look descendants, however. Besson: ugh. I should make it clear that I consider Carax only a distant cousin rather than a true member of that inbred family.

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#3 Post by Michael » Tue Oct 04, 2005 5:05 pm

zedz, what is it about Diva that doesn't hold up well? Is it the once super-cool 80s fashion?

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Polybius
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#4 Post by Polybius » Tue Oct 04, 2005 6:46 pm

Another film Danny Peary put me on the trail of in Cult Movies.

l'avventurist
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#5 Post by l'avventurist » Tue Oct 04, 2005 7:52 pm

i think i was about eleven years old when this came out, and i know that my parents and their friends were knocked out by it. then i think i probably rented it in the late eighties, but couldn't get into it. i purchased the dvd not long ago and was knocked out by the film. there are bits that are somewhat dated, but great entertainment all-around. and the dvd looks great too!

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zedz
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#6 Post by zedz » Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:38 pm

Michael wrote:zedz, what is it about Diva that doesn't hold up well? Is it the once super-cool 80s fashion?
Partly, it's that the film is all about its own slick surface (and self-conscious juxtaposition of unlikely elements), and the thriller story at its centre is little more than an overdressed TV cop show plot.

In addition to this, the film's biggest asset, its visual style, has subsequently been chewed up and spit out by music video, advertising, Hollywood and television (in that order). When I saw it in the mid-nineties with a group of people who had heard great things about it, they were bored by the story and characters (hardly Beneix's strong suit), and were no longer seduced by the style (it was, they reckoned, like an excruciatingly long, slackly paced, car commercial).

I see the film as a good example of an important and influential film of its time that lacks the ability to transcend that time.

Michael Mann's Manhunter may be a useful counterexample. It's a grab bag of styles, looks and sounds of its period, but there's a core to the film that transcends that time (its approach to narrative, which is not typical of its time; some of the performances; Mann's use of space). Diva was primarily about style, and when that style ceases to surprise, the core that's left is pretty flimsy: one- or, at best, two-dimensional characters; generally indifferent performances; a puree of generic narratives, some of which are frankly banal.

What still works in it are some of the set-pieces (though the connective tissue between them can be heavy-going), especially where music substitutes for dialogue, and, for those who saw it way back when, nostalgia.

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Michael
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#7 Post by Michael » Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:53 pm

Thank you, zedz, for taking the time to explain.
I see the film as a good example of an important and influential film of its time that lacks the ability to transcend that time.
Among the most influential films of the 80s. No question about that. I certainly know what you mean. I saw Diva when it first came out...when it was the most perfect time to watch Diva. You brought up the word "nostalgia" a couple of times and perhaps it's that nostalgia that "rose-colors" my eyes, making Diva look like it still holds up well to me over two decades.

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Jeff
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#8 Post by Jeff » Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:15 am

Meridian Collection version due 6-3-08. Supplements to be confirmed.

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jbeall
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#9 Post by jbeall » Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:22 am

Michael wrote:zedz, what is it about Diva that doesn't hold up well? Is it the once super-cool 80s fashion?
I don't like super-cool 80s fashion. (You don't like anything.)
Last edited by jbeall on Wed May 07, 2008 12:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Person
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 3:00 pm

#10 Post by Person » Sat Mar 29, 2008 10:41 am

I saw Diva for the first time last year. I found it to be entertaining. Nicely shot film. The characters/performances are what really let it down, though. It's no classic in my eyes, but it is interesting enough.

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jbeall
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#11 Post by jbeall » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:27 pm

Damn. Looks like I won't be picking up the Lion's Gate. I never thought I'd be glad to have kept my Anchor Bay edition of a film!

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Cronenfly
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#12 Post by Cronenfly » Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:08 pm

I posted this in the Beaver thread too, but I think that it bears repeating. The poor transfer is inexcuseable, but this DVD Talk review of the LG Diva suggests that the special features are overdubbed in English:
Beineix recorded the commentary in French, but an English translator speaks over the top of his monologue.
The interviews tend to be in French, but instead of subtitles, a translator speaks over the top of the audio (though a different speaker than the commentary translator)

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Jeff
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#13 Post by Jeff » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:00 am

Cronenfly wrote:I posted this in the Beaver thread too, but I think that it bears repeating. The poor transfer is inexcuseable, but this DVD Talk review of the LG Diva suggests that the special features are overdubbed in English.
This review from HTF mentions the English overdubbing too (and the reviewer liked the transfer).

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tavernier
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#14 Post by tavernier » Wed Jun 04, 2008 10:25 am

I have the disc and it is indeed English-friendly throughout (with English menus).

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Cronenfly
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#15 Post by Cronenfly » Wed Jun 04, 2008 7:09 pm

Jeff wrote:
Cronenfly wrote:I posted this in the Beaver thread too, but I think that it bears repeating. The poor transfer is inexcuseable, but this DVD Talk review of the LG Diva suggests that the special features are overdubbed in English.
This review from HTF mentions the English overdubbing too (and the reviewer liked the transfer).
DVD Talk liked it too; sorry to personify it negatively based solely on the Beaver review (though the manipulation/edge enhancement on display has me convinced it isn't a good transfer).

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Lionsgate: Diva

#16 Post by knives » Thu Jan 26, 2017 8:31 pm

This is the closest we have to a Beineix thread, but I was curious if anyone has seen his two recent documentaries or would know where to find them?

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DeprongMori
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Re: Lionsgate: Diva

#17 Post by DeprongMori » Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:37 pm

Since StudioCanal seems to be the rightsholder on this, I’m guessing that likelihood of a Criterion rescue of this title from their laserdisc days is pretty close to nil.

I am surprised however that StudioCanal themselves have not issued a restoration and Blu-ray release of Diva. I would imagine it would sell rather briskly as it was a popular title. (Both Betty Blue and even the critically reviled The Moon In The Gutter have gotten recent Blu-ray releases, though through other companies and with questionable PQ.)

moreorless
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2018 5:34 am

Re: Diva (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981)

#18 Post by moreorless » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:46 am

There was a BR/DVD re release in the UK a year or two ago, didn't look that closely at it as I was happy enough with the old DVD I had.

When I first watched this what stood out for me beyond its general influence was how much influence Friedkin seemed to have taken from it for To Live and Die in LA, I spose it shouldn't be that much of a supprise given how much of a Francophile he is and already having remade The Wages of Fear although this was a bit the opposite for me, different story but some of the same visuals and set pieces.

As far as Diva holding up I still think it does pretty well personally, the visuals have obviously been lifted from a lot but never quite as successfully plus the Parisian setting obviously brings something very different to LA or NY. The relationship between the lead and the Diva herself is I think quite interesting as well. I always felt that Beineix didn't quite get his due with Betty Blue personally with it being viewed mostly on sex appeal, not sure if there was any direct influence but to me the mixture of drama and quirky characters felt like it was a bit of a preview of the Coens, Hal Hartly, etc

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