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Friday, 18 February 2011

Diva - 1980 with A List of the Best Directional Debuts

Diva - 1980 directed by Jean Jacques Beineix
I like this poster, simple at first but gets
more complex the more one looks at it.

No artistic movement can endure forever, this is a simple fact due to the ever evolving nature of all art forms.
Thus The French New Wave eventually had to come to an end. It was "replaced" by the new movement named "Cinema Du Look" of which Luc Besson is probably the most well known participant.
Jean Jacques Beineix can be credited with starting the movement with his first film "Diva".
It is a stylish and well acted Thriller but suffers from quite a few flaws. But first I'll mention the aspects I enjoyed, I thought the cinematography was quite exceptional it was very colourful and it's wide shots were superb, and the camera movements and angles were all very fluid and stylish, more so than many films nowadays I might add. So it definitely surpassed my expectations from a technical point of view. 
The acting as decent, it ranged from average to very good throughout quite a large cast. The acting wasn't a problem.

All of my problems with the film lay in the script. It could have had better pacing and a while I recognise that is the "slow-burning" type of thriller I still think a bit more energy and more intelligent dialogue wouldn't have been unwelcome.
Not that the script is terrible, it is far better than many films. But it had definite room for improvement.
It had inconsistencies and a handful of ludicrous scenes. One of the main problems was that I felt it focused on the wrong characters, the main character and the opera singer were rather interesting but I thought the ageing hippie/planning genius (and major deus ex machina) and his protegee the young Vietnamese woman were far more interesting.
And indeed in the material this film was based on (a series of novels written by Daniel Odier) they are the main characters.

But overall Diva is an extremely watch-able, very stylish and moderately entertaining cult classic despite it's occasional ludicrous moments. Definitely a strong debut for Beineix and it provokes interest in his subsequent work, which I hear isn't as good as Diva...

Despite my criticism I did like this film, it was worth watching in my case as I aspire to become a director, so watching accomplished directors first films is always informative and inspiring for me.

And now to celebrate my viewing this debut film here is a list of some of the best film debuts I've seen.
Not all directors first films are their breakthrough films, many struggled for years before gaining the recognition they deserve but some on the other hand just burst into the film world with a fantastic first film.
This is a selection of those films, everyone of them ranks among my all time favourites.

"Please note that I don't take into account any Short films, T.V. work, music video's or acting careers that may have preceded these films."And of course I only included the films I have seen.
These are the directors first feature length films, listed by release date:

Citizen Kane - 1941
Director: Orson Welles.
Later career? Well sadly this was Orson highest point, it all went downhill from here. 
As he himself said: "I started at the top, and worked my way down to the bottom".
The Night Of The Hunter - 1955
Director: Charles Laughton
Later Career? This was the only film he directed, which was rather a shame for this is an excellent film.

Elevator To The Gallows - 1957
Director: Louis Malle
Later Career? Successful. I'm not to familiar which his later career but I'm pretty sure his later films were much acclaimed. He received many awards and many more nominations. So I think his career just got better and better really...

Les 400 Coups -1959

 Director: Francois Truffaut
Later Career? very prolific, but I think this film will always be his most remembered. And it certainly deserves to be.

Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - 1966
 Director: Mike Nichols
Later Career? Successful, he went on the direct The Graduate and other Classics. This film will always be my favourite of his though.

 Ivan's Childhood - 1962
Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Later Career? He managed to sustain a high level of quality throughout his whole career. All his films are great. This is one of his lesser ones though.

Signs Of Life - 1968
 Director: Werner Herzog
Later Career? Became one of the best directors ever. Seriously, although this film is very good he has only got better with time.

 Easy Rider - 1969
Director: Dennis Hopper
Later Career? Rather uneven, some good films though such as Colors. But nothing as great as this film.

Badlands - 1973
 Director: Terence Malick
Later Career? Excellent, hasn't really made a bad film, although The Last World was slightly disappointing. Badlands is still my favourite of his films, but maybe Tree Of Life will change that...

The Evil Dead - 1982
 Director: Sam Raimi
Later Career? The Evil Dead 2 is even better than this one and the highpoint of his career, Army of Darkness and Darkman are pretty good as well though.

This Is Spinal Tap - 1984

 Director: Rob Reiner
Later career? directed Misery which was very successful as well as many acclaimed films such as The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men and When Harry Met Sally. But This Is Spinal Tap is a masterpiece of comedy and probably his finest work.

Boyz N The Hood -1991
 Director: John Singleton
Later career? Pretty terrible. He followed up the massive success of this film with a few lesser known films that received decent reviews before turning to Fast and Furious, which is a bad film.

Reservoir Dogs - 1992
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Later Career? Very consistent, hasn't really made a bad film and I doubt he ever will. Reservoir Dogs is a great example of surpassing budget constrictions. 

A Bronx Tale - 1993
 Director: Robert De Niro
Later Career? A couple of films which I haven't seen, he's a better actor than a director frankly. A Bronx Tale is a very good film though, I think it deserves more credit. 

The Shawshank Redemption - 1994
 Director: Franck Darabont
Later Career? Went of to become a successful director although his work on The Shawshank Redemption would have been enough to make him famous. It is currently number 1 on the IMDb list. 

La Haine - 1995
Director: Mattieu Kassowitz
Later Career? Disappointing to say the least, he went to Hollywood made a couple of flops and was gradually forgotten. La Haine is a fantastic film though (one of my top 10). Kassowitz is also a terrific actor.

The Full Monty - 1997

 Director: Peter Cattaneo
Later Career? Nothing really worth mentioning, a couple of overlooked but well received films. The Full Monty remains his masterpiece. 

Being John Malkovich - 1998
 Director: Spike Jonze
 Later Career? Adaptation is excellent and surpasses even the brilliance of this film but Where The Wild Things Are was a mess.

Shaun Of The Dead - 2004
 Director: Edgar Wright
Later Career? Hot Fuzz was excellent, even better than this film, Scott Pilgrim vs The World was great just as good as this film. He's one of the best young directors. 

Gone Baby Gone - 2007
 Director: Ben Affleck
Later Career? The Town was a pretty solid film but failed to achieve the greatness of this film. I doubt he ever will again. It's a really masterful film.

District 9 - 2009

Director: Neil Blomkamp
Later Career? Nothing as of yet but if he directs a sequel I'm sure it would be just as good or even better than this film.

Moon -2009
Director: Duncan Jones
Later Career? Nothing as of yet but I have a feeling that his upcoming film will be disappointing compared to this film.

Well that concludes my list. I tried to keep it as concise as possible as I am aware that not all of you have time or are willing to read a lengthy review for each of these films...
Any other strong debuts you would include? disagree with some of my choices? Please don't hesitate to comment. 
Thanks for reading!

and what are you're thoughts on "Diva"? would you recommend any similar films?

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