Probably one of the best of the ‘cinema du look’, Jean-Jaques Beineix’s Diva set the tone for French cinema in the 1980s. Without Diva there would mavbe have been no ‘Betty Blue’ and countless other inferior erotic rip-offs right into the 90s and beyond.
The critic Ginette Vincendeau defined the films made by Beineix and others as ‘youth-oriented films with high production values… The look of the cinéma du look refers to the films’ high investment in non-naturalistic, self-conscious aesthetics, notably intense colours and lighting effects. Their spectacular (studio based) and technically brilliant mise-en-scène is usually put to the service of romantic plots.’
In Diva, style is everything and Diva has a lot of style. It’s got a hot black opera singer Wilhelmenia Fernandez who sings the haunting ‘Ebben? Ne andrò lontana’ from Catalani’s opera La Wally and appears herself as the object of postman Jules’ sexual and musical obsession. And yes Diva is one of the few movies where the lead is a cool opera loving postman.
It’s got Richard Bohringer (Romane Bohringer from L’Appartement’s real life dad) as the ultra cool Gorodish who lives in a minimal pad decorated in hip Gitane blue. Jules himself lives in an abandoned garage that’s more like a loft adorned with all types of stylish kitch and then of course there is the highly distinctive motorbike on the Métro chase sequence which was one of the very first of its kind.
Being the 80’s it has outlandish gangsters (the weirdest of which went on to appear in as the obsessive in the café in Amélie), drugged prostitutes and bent police detectives. And did I mention the suggestion of interracial sex?
It’s fast, it’s fun but it’s always perfectly composed and really quite a voluptuous feast for both eyes and ears.