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In 1981, Beineix's Diva was a forerunner of the Cinema du Look movement that would come to hold a prominent role in the French films of the following decade. Wikipedia defines the movement as one that "referred to films that had a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters that were said to represent the marginalized youth of Francois Mitterand's France." Common themes within the genre included alienation and doomed love, with a focus on the conflicted state of the country's youth and the frequent use of the Paris Metro. Beineix's wonderful film incorporates all of these aspects and more, showcasing a director truly fascinated by the possibilities of filmmaking and the tools of color, music, sound, and mise-en-scene. Diva is clearly a thriller, but one with very little action; the first car chase, minor as it is, doesn't occur until well past the film's halfway mark.
The plot centers around Jules, a young French postal worker, who is infatuated with Cynthia Hawkins, a beautiful American opera singer, memorably played by Wilhelmenia Fernandez. After bootlegging one of her performances, and is soon ensnared in a web of police corruption, Taiwanese mobsters, and French thugs - one of whom is played by a very young Dominique Pinon (Amelie, City of Lost Children). Gluing together scenes of blackmail and intrigue, Beineix delivers a collage with an exciting early-'80s new wave sensibility, best exemplified by Vietnamese actress Thuy An Luu. Although the film was lauded as a benchmark for largely dispensing with the realist tendencies that had dominated French cinema in the decade prior, it maintains a bit of those influential sensibilities; never before has the act of buttering a baguette been so poetically and artfully described. Almost 30 years later, Diva holds up remarkably well.
In addition to the digitally remastered transfer to DVD, the Meridian Collection release includes several added features, including a handful of in-depth scene commentaries from Beineix, and a series of 10 featurettes that, when played together, serve as a coherent documentary on the film. SEE ALSO: www.lionsgate.com/meridiancollection
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
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