DIVA
1981
Dir: Jean-Jacques Beineix
Eventually the 'French New Wave' became the 'French Old Wave'.
Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, had revitalized French cinema, and inspired other great directors including Bresson, Melville, Clouzot, Varda and Resnais. They not only borrowed from the Hollywood tradition, including the obvious inspiration of film noir, but also themselves became an inspiration for a new generation of Hollywood directors.

But there came a time when the new - minimalism, realism, the 'policiers' = had become old.

It was time for something new.

'Diva' was that something.
With dramatic, often colourful lighting, elaborate camera moves, and powerful use of music, this new style drew its inspiration from the modern styles of commercials, music videos, and the new Hollywood films.

This style became known as 'Cinéma du look'
Luc Besson, Leos Carax, and of course Jean-Jacques Beineix followed this style in such popular films as 'Betty Blue', 'Subway' and 'Les Amants du Pont-Neuf'. We can clearly see how these films laid the foundations for the work of Jeunet - 'Amelie', 'Delicatessen', 'City of Lost Children'.

It is interesting how dramatically the look and style of films changed between the 70s and 80s - not only in France but in world cinema.

Seventies films always seem to me to be clearly from a distant past, and have a look that seems quite alien, whereas in the 80s films started to look 'modern' and sometimes almost 'contemporary'.
One of the reasons for this is print technology. The 70s saw the end of dye transfer prints, and low-fade prints didn't arrive until 1982. A lot of the films that we may have seen from the 70s came from faded prints.
Another culprit is the zoom lens. In the early sixties, the French company Angénieux created the first 10x motion picture zoom lens - 25-250mm T2.
This enabled sixties and 70s filmmakers to employ all those zooming shots that nowadays look so dated. I could talk for a long time about the zoom lens and why one should never use it except on home movies and at the end of every scene in Thai television dramas. But with some notable exceptions, directors in the 80s started to return to the use of dollying and put their zooms away.

Of course, the changes in look and style that took place from the 70s to the 80s are not unique to the movies. So much of the fashion, colors and style of the 70s seem at worst utterly ridiculous, and at best, blatantly retro.

One cannot talk about the style changes in the 80s without mentioning MTV.
Music videos were usually not directed by mainstream narrative film directors.
Directors like Godley and Creme, Brian Grant, Stephen Johnson, Russell Mulcahy, Julien Temple, and Mary Lambert had never directed conventional narrative. They were inspired by fashion, animation, punk, design, and the music itself.
They brought a fresh look to music videos that soon influenced mainstream cinema.

'Diva' was the first French film to embrace all the different influences of the time and create a totally new look. It was massively successful in France, where over 2 million people saw it at the cinema, and found a cult following across the world.

Watch also for the great soundtrack with its innovative use of operatic and classical music, and the delightful Thuy Ann Lu.

Paul Spurrier