Review: In A New Blu-ray Edition, 'Diva' Never Looked Better

by Sam Cohen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 11, 2020

Review: In A New Blu-ray Edition, 'Diva' Never Looked Better

Innovation is a huge part of why filmmaking has persisted as an art since its inception. That's why we talk about certain eras of film as movements, as these were moments of great innovation that forever changed the way filmmakers worked. Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 film "Diva," often cited as the shining star of the cinma du look movement, is proof of such innovation. It has been noted by many critics as an airy, stylish, and empty thrill ride, which isn't an assessment without merit; rather, that same empty style is its biggest strength.

Beineix has very particular views about what films should do, and his "Diva" may be his grand thesis, which is a bit odd considering it came out so early in his career. Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label brings this French classic to Blu-ray with a sturdy video presentation and a swath of special features for fans to dig into. While the majority of the extras have been carried over from a previous release, Kino Lorber has added a new audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams that's truly loaded with information about both "Diva" and the cinma du look movement.

"Diva" follows Jules (Frdric Andri), a young postal carrier, who illegally tapes a concert of a reclusive opera singer (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez). A prostitute then slips another tape with incriminating evidence against a police chief into Jules' bag, which sets off a whirlwind of action as the erstwhile delivery boy has to run across Paris to keep both tapes safe.

While "Diva" has been applauded by critics for its breathless style, including an extended chase sequence that belongs in the league of "The French Connection" and "Bullitt," Beineix's own obsession with filmmaking as an art really stuck out to me. Here's a director that decided to make a movie about the dilution of style and art through duplication, yet his own strong style overwhelms each and every shot. The onus is on camera movement to dictate how the audience should be feeling, although that doesn't mean the performances are purposely thin to shift the gaze. Rather, the film's own excitement to get to the next scene ends up being so infectious that you may not care.

In a time of cinema history when artifice is frequently chosen over physical creativity or innovation, it's films like "Diva" that stand as a corrective, in a weird way. The madcap fun it so excels in reminds us that sometimes the most revolutionary moving art is sensuous just in the way images move.

This release comes highly recommended. Other special features include:

Scene specific audio commentary by director Jean-Jacques Beineix

Introduction by professor Phil Powrie and Eric Grinda

Interview with composer Vladimir Cosma

Interview with casting director Dominique Besnehard

Interview with star Frdric Andri

Interview with actors Anny Romand and Dominique Pinon

Interview with actor Richard Bohringer

"Holding Ground" with director Jean-Jacques Beineix

"In the Caf" with director Jean-Jacques Beineix

Interview with cinematographer Philippe Rousselot

Interview with set designer Hilton McConnico


Kino Lorber Blu-ray