Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Style And Substance And Acoustic Terror

Wild dogs cry out, howling, barking, like song.
They are small things singing among large things.

Wild dogs unplugged. They’re acoustic holdouts.

Cinéma du look was a French film movement of the 1980s, analysed, for the first time, by French critic Raphaël Bassan in La Revue du Cinéma issue n° 448, May 1989, in which Besson was lumped with two other directors who shared "le look." These directors were said to favor style over substance, spectacle over narrative. It referred to films that had a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters that were said to represent the marginalised youth of François Mitterrand's France. The three main directors of the Cinéma du look were Jean-Jacques Beineix, Luc Besson and Leos Carax. Themes that run through many of their films include doomed love affairs, young people with peer groups rather than families, a cynical view of the police and the use of the Paris Métro to symbolise an alternative, underground society. The mixture of 'high' culture, such as the opera music of Diva and Les Amants du Pont-Neuf and pop culture, for example the references to Batman in Subway, was another key feature. Unlike most film movements, the Cinéma du look had no clear political ideology.

The year I turned twenty-one, a French filmmaker
released a film about an acoustic holdout,
“Diva,” about an opera star who won’t allow
her singing to be recorded and a young man
who loves her and surreptitiously records her.

The young man’s friends help him defeat Asian gangsters
who want to release a commercial recording
based on the tapes he made of the opera star’s voice.

In the end, the opera star listens to her voice
for the first time on the tapes the young man has made.
She’s terrified to hear herself, but he holds her.
With him holding her, she is able to listen
to a recording of herself for the first time.

This film, that story, is sometimes characterized
as a movie where style rises above substance.

One time I described “Diva” to a young woman.
She laughed and didn’t believe it was a real film.
She thought I was teasing her. She asked, “What singer
wouldn’t want to put out a record and get paid?”

When I remember things like this I wish someone
was holding me to help me get through the terror.

(Music in “Diva” was composed by Vladimir Cosma. This is his piece, ‘Promenade Sentimentale’ )

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“Diva” at Wikipedia

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