Posts tagged french cinema

Director Jean-Jacques Beineix is probably more famous for Betty Blue but his 1981 debut, “Diva”, has a beauty of its own. Several, in fact. The first being American soprano Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, who plays a determined, beautiful opera singer, Cynthia Hawkins, that refuses to record any of her work. I very much like this idea of a singer who has never heard their own voice played back to them.

The incredibly beautiful Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez

What draws me to Diva isn’t the plot, which hasn’t aged too well. A sort of tangled story of love, corruption and deceit. The aforementioned Wiggins Fernandez literally glows throughout the film as the main character’s love interest. Her rendition of Alfredo Catalani’s La Wally is heart-wrenching. As is Vladimir Cosma’s, who created the soundtrack, Satie-inspired Promenade Sentimental.

There are some truly spectacular scenes in Diva and credit needs to be given to the cinematographer, Philippe Rousselot. In fact, the whole film felt like a composition of image and sound. That probably sounds a bit obtuse as that is fundamentally what cinema is but each frame seems so carefully arranged that to watch Diva feels almost like flicking through a photographic album. Not to say that the film is devoid of emotion or suspense. The scene in which Cynthia and her young admirer Jules [played by Richard Bohringer] stroll around Paris in the early hours of the morning is one of the most tender love scenes I have ever seen.


Miss Hawkins’ wardrobe is also noteworthy. Doesn’t her one-shouldered dress, that Jules steals at the beginning of the film, remind you of Halston? Especially, Bianca Jagger?

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intimate strangers end scene

I’m a sucker for ye ole cinema Frenchy, especially the bourgeois kind where someone’s always giving a violin or cello some finger love [Un Coeur un Hiver] or staring off camera in a melancholic, yearning sort of way. Or suddenly turning their head to stare at you mid-pout, mock horror. Yes, a bit shlocky, I know. “Fromageoise” for sure. Mais oui, J’aime beaucoup. Can’t help it.

Anyway, one digresses. This is probably one of my all time favourite closing scenes of the beautifully odd love story “Confidences Trop Intimes” (2004) starring Sandrine Bonnaire in full on frump mode. love the way that they never kiss or barely touch each other throughout the entire film. It’s frustrating and claustrophobic. And the film ends with her admitting defeat in the face of love [sounding a bit Babs Cartlands here] and seeks her shrink lover who has now moved from the city to a beachside apartment – don’t ask. It ends with her on the analyst’s couch and him sat down watching her. They talk. There’s a lot of talking in that film, BTW. The camera slowly pans out from above and I find the whole thing graphically pleasing to one’s eye. probably the most romantic end to a film I’ve ever seen.