Moviedrome Mondays: Diva (1981)

Moviedrome presenter Alex Cox did not seem to be a fan of this dazzling 1981 French cult thriller entitled Diva. The film was directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix and while he has directed other movies after this one (Moon in the Gutter and Betty Blue to name just two examples), Diva still remains (at least for me) his best work. The film’s visual style is rooted in a 1980’s French film movement labeled Cinema du look. According to French-born, but British-based academic/critic Ginette Vincendeau (a Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London), Cinema du look films were driven by their “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.” Aside from Beineix, fellow French filmmakers Luc Besson and Leos Carax also contributed greatly to this movement. According to French film critic and journalist Raphael Bassan, Beineix, Besson and Carax serve as the main directors of the movement (read here). With the exception of Carax, Beineix and Besson have found themselves frequently criticized for displaying this style in their films (read here). Either that, or maybe it is the way they display it? Even If I disagree with Cox here, I do love the way he talks about it in the link below.

First, here is a link to the Diva Moviedrome episode transcript. The episode’s original airdate was May 22, 1988.

Second, here is a youtube link below of Alex Cox’s introduction to Diva.


And finally, here is a link to the original theatrical trailer below (or at least the closest I can come to finding an original theatrical trailer for it).



14 thoughts on “Moviedrome Mondays: Diva (1981)

  1. I haven’t seen this film, although as Alex Cox points out a lot of people like Diva. Roger Ebert for one included an excellent long review of Beineix’s film in his ‘Great Movies’ series. Thanks for another Moviedrome Monday John, it’s a good way to start the week.

  2. I watched every episode of Moviedrome, and used to tape it on VHS when I was working shifts. I didn’t always agree with him of course, but enjoyed his appraisals. I saw ‘Diva’ at the cinema, and loved it. I thought it worked very well, and I don’t mind ‘style over substance’ at all, when it is good style.
    Strange that Cox should use that critical phrase, given that his film ‘Walker’ (which I also liked) is a classic example of that very thing. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  3. Haa I think that’s the first time I’ve heard him quite flippant about a film. I’ve not seen Diva yet. I will get to it one day. Keep up this series John. It’s very enjoyable looking back.

  4. I read about that concerning Manic Street Preachers. Nevertheless, it is unclear whether or not that they were naming it after that movie cause I can’t find a link where that is stated, but I would not be surprised If that was the influence 🙂 Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  5. Along with Roger Ebert, David Denby and Pauline Kael (she reportedly compared Jean-Jacques Beineix to Orson Welles) are two other critics, who are huge fans of this film. Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  6. Alex Cox could be occasionally (or frequently depending on oneself) opinionated regarding some of the films he introduced on Moviedrome back in the day. I loved Walker as well, but I think that film was a combination of both style and substance because the film seemed to serve as an attack on Reagan-era foreign policy regarding U.S. policy towards Nicaragua. Of course, Cox and screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer used William Walker’s story as a metaphor to capture this intent. Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

    P.S. I love it that I have finally found someone who has seen the film Walker besides myself 🙂 Cox reportedly labeled it his personal favorite of all his films. It is also my personal favorite of his films 🙂

  7. Yes, things like helicopters and assault rifles in the 1850s, Cox used that unapologetic style to give his take not only on Walker, but about US involvement in central America.I think it lacked substance as an historical account, but had more as political comment. Two films in one, perhaps? Not sure that either of them worked completely, but I still think it’s a great film. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

  8. There’s probably an interview out there somewhere where they discuss it, but for sure it was a movie they loved – the cover of their early single You Love Us contains the poster from Betty Blue. They do throw a lot of movie (and book) references into their songs and artwork, songs like RP McMurphy obviously inspired by the character and various songs containing spoken dialogue from films like 1984 and The Machinist

  9. Don’t know this one, John. Very astute assessment of the film. Isn’t Alex Cox the director of Repo Man? I think so…If so, it’s probably the only film by him that I’ve seen…Oh, wait a minute,didn’t he direct Sid and Nancy also? In any case, I like both of those films very much–especially Sid and Nancy.

  10. My favorite Alex Cox film is Walker with Ed Harris 🙂 It is a subtly satirical historical western. It also served as a metaphor for U.S. foreign policy during the Reagan era in regards to their policies towards Nicaragua. Here are two links below.

    One about the film via The Criterion Collection

    And the other is a trailer for the film

    Anyway, thanks for dropping by 🙂

  11. Thank you for the links. I’m very fond of Ed Harris. I first saw him in Robert Benton’s Places in the Heart. I thought he was brilliant in it. So natural before the extreme naturalistic style of acting became du jour.

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