Diva

From: william (WILLIAMA)18 Feb 09:58
To: ALL1 of 29
Postman Pat Jules bootlegs an operatic recital by Cynthia Hawkins. In the way that things happen in moody French action movies, a prostitute hides an incriminating audio cassette in his bag moments before she is shot dead. Oh, the mayhem that ensues: crooked detectives, the mob, a super-cool rescuer and his super-cool girlfriend, blackmail, a car chases a mobylette  through the Metro - Phew!

One of my favourite films ever. Worth it for Wilhemenia Wiggins Fernandez (Cynthia Hawkins) singing the aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" from the opera La Wally (I looked that up - not a great opera buff). Alternatively you could just watch this YouTube extract. Fabulously filmed, looks great on a big screen which is what would be expected from a film that kicked off what was called Cinema du look.

DVD and Blu Ray releases dire quality, but just discovered that there's a Criterion release. I wonder if Jim has a copy I could borrow.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)18 Feb 11:32
To: william (WILLIAMA) 2 of 29
Sounds fantastic, just placed a hold on it (as below). Not sure if it's the Criterion release, but Diva isn't listed on Criterion's online dvd catalog.


From: william (WILLIAMA)18 Feb 15:05
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 3 of 29
Yeah, that's me typing without thinking. It's actually a "Meridian" remastered edition. By all accounts the actual film source is soft and grainy, but the transfers to dvd and blu ray have been done very lazily and in some cases are little better than VHS. The remastered version is said to be better but it's hard to track down other than on DVD. Actually, the main issue with trying to get decent copies is finding a site where they actually bother to give full details of what they're selling. Amazon is hopeless with reviews for different formats and versions all lumped together.

Anyway, great film. Hope you enjoy it.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)18 Feb 15:34
To: william (WILLIAMA) 4 of 29
Quote: 
little better than VHS

The difference in mastering quality isn't quite so apparent on our old 27" motel CRT tv set, but sometimes it's terribly obvious as was the case with The Secret Policemen's Ball vol. such-and-so we saw the other night. What I really hate however is sub-titling optimized for these new-fangled flat screen displays, barely legible on our set!

From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)28 Feb 19:11
To: william (WILLIAMA) 5 of 29
Woohoo, it IS the meridian remastered edition  :-O~~~ . Just picked it up, will probably watch during the weekend.
From: william (WILLIAMA)28 Feb 20:56
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 6 of 29
I hope it's old enough that the subtitles are clear on your telly. For what it is, I think it's near perfect. 
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 5 Mar 14:39
To: william (WILLIAMA) 7 of 29
It's a beautiful re-master, rivaling the latest releases in quality. The subtitles are old-school, optimized for CRT presentation (/folks with poor eyesight). We watched about half last night, looking forward to seeing the rest tonight. Interesting plot, great villains.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 6 Mar 14:17
To: william (WILLIAMA) 8 of 29
Finished it. Its many superb and interesting qualities didn't quite coalesce -- perhaps because there were too many. Also the lead actor was weak* The sound-recording aspect compares unfavorably to The Conversation as a fully-realized plot device (allowing the protagonists are wildly different). I may need to re-watch in a different frame of mind.


* the character he played was weak, and callow. Still his performance was completely overshadowed by the rest of the cast, except possibly the kingpin, who was also more than a bit meh. I'm struggling to think of more charismatic and experienced actors cast as weak characters in other films.**

** Ah ha! (nod) I just thought of one: Robert Pattinson in Cronenburg's adaptation of Cosmopolis
EDITED: 6 Mar 15:36 by DSMITHHFX
From: Manthorp 6 Mar 15:01
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 9 of 29
It sounds worth a pop, particularly as you have managed expectation.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 6 Mar 15:13
To: Manthorp 10 of 29
Definitely. It's generally received top reviews.

Maybe a tad too cinéma du look for my taste (that's Fr. for eye-candy).
From: william (WILLIAMA) 6 Mar 15:44
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 11 of 29
It isn't a perfectly balanced film by any stretch of the imagination, and one of the aspects that knocks it out of wack is the lead character, amongst the cast of super-cool or super-bad characters. I know what you mean by weak and callow, but to me he just seems real. We're used to being fed stories about the angst of young and wealthy heroes coming of age, or lion-tamers and fighter pilots, or whatever, but here we've got a young kid who's a bloody postman. He's into Opera so he steals some on his tape machine. Then he steals some clothing from the singer's dressing room. Later when he sits next to her, his arm is inching round her back like a LAD would do. Anyway, that's my view. Other views are available.
 
Just acquired the Meridian release from eBay. Region 1 but not fussed about that as it's going straight onto Plex anyway.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 6 Mar 15:57
To: william (WILLIAMA) 12 of 29
The portrayal of the character was very believable, in the haphazardness of young people and how they cope with wayward impulses, such as diva-stalking (and who hasn't... never mind). His survival instinct e.g. the extended motorbike chase scene was also strongly believable. I disagree that other characters were super-cool despite mirror sunglasses etc., possibly excepting that nasty little hitman, who was a total scene-stealer as well as handy with an ice pick.
From: william (WILLIAMA)12 Mar 16:07
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 13 of 29
Just got the Meridian version. A quick side by side comparison and it's obvious that the Meridian cut is cleaner and occasionally clearer, although it isn't a night and day change. They appear to have played with some other digital "enhancements" which are heavy-handed in several places.

Sadly, they've made some bizarre decisions considering this is supposed to be a super-gorgeous cut of the film. They have actually reduced the VOB size and bit rate from the original DVD releases in order to cram more extras on! The mkv from my old DVD is 4.84 GB with a bit rate of 5843 kb/s. The Lionsgate/Meridian version is more than a gigabyte smaller at 3.62 GB and 4217 kb/s. The extras are all encoded at the same bit rate as the main feature whereas a far lower rate would have been perfectly adequate, and left more room on the disc for a better quality main, irrespective of whether the remastering is better on the Meridian release than on others.

Overall, the look is different rather than better and I haven't really decided which I prefer and I'm leaning towards the version I already had - which is sad. I've also just discovered a review which rather slams the Lionsgate/Meridian release for just the things I found: excessive digital manipulation and reducing the bit rate. Judging by this review and the cover you posted, you may have had the Anchor Bay version (unless it said Meridian on the box) which looks to be the best of the lot. Since this is £48 on Amazon UK I shan't be checking.
 
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)12 Mar 16:46
To: william (WILLIAMA) 14 of 29
It was definitely the Meridian version, different to the cover I posted and it said "Meridian". Interesting comparison, not sure I would notice it on our old CRT television (as I pointed out previously). Apart from it looking perfectly presentable (clean and sharp), nothing jumped out at me about the quality, and I probably wouldn't have even thought about it if it was a recent release. Did they change color balance, brightness, saturation etc.?
From: william (WILLIAMA)12 Mar 18:49
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 15 of 29
All of those, plus they stretched the image in the anamorphic conversion to reduce cropping. The most noticeable things are edge enhancement and contrast fiddling, plus there's a sort of "smoothing" evident on flat surfaces like faces. The review said that they lost detail by reducing the bit rate, but I suspect that's in comparison to the Anchor Bay release, which I haven't seen. I know that towards the end of CRT production there were some pretty fancy sets around, including a few that worked with HD inputs, but I doubt there are many that would show a big difference between the three versions.

Incidentally, while faffing about on ebay I accidentally bid on an Anchor Bay release (I'm the only bidder) so I may have a copy soon. I shan't be sorry if I get outbid.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)12 Mar 19:05
To: william (WILLIAMA) 16 of 29
"a sort of "smoothing" evident on flat surfaces like faces"

I've only seen that sort of thing on big flat screens (such as my brother's 55"), I assumed it was 'up sampled' streaming 1080p content, whatever it looks creepy AF.
From: william (WILLIAMA)12 Mar 19:34
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 17 of 29
Some modern televisions upscale really well, others don't. All of them benefit from having the electronic image improvements turned off, with the possible exception of watching fast moving sport where various settings can reduce blur. For normal viewing, the worst culprit is motion interpolation which produces the "soap opera effect". It's designed to bring material with one refresh rate up to the native refresh rate of the TV to avoid blur and give you a "better" picture. If your film is 24 fps and your TV's native frequency is 60 Hz (and many are 120 Hz) then motion interpolation will buffer the film and calculate 'intermediate' frames which are interpolated. The effect is horrible. I watched the Third Man at my Brother's house (he's a chap who plugs things in, turns them on and that's it) and it was like watching a live video feed: really weird and unsettling. It's called different things depending on who makes the TV - trumotion, clearframe etc.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)12 Mar 20:17
To: william (WILLIAMA) 18 of 29
In hindsight, there was an odd disconnect between the 'eye-candy' photography (which I had assumed was a cinéma du look thing), and the noirish plot.
From: william (WILLIAMA)12 Mar 22:18
To: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX) 19 of 29
Yeah, I think the Cinema du Look is a grand term for a very small stylistic twist. Style as a way of life and an expression of independence is as old as the hills. Sticking it into movies with smart camera work, sharp lighting, and a few cleverly placed arty-objects is a bit thin as a means of creating a whole genre. That said, the film is a pretty good representation of a moment in time, and not bad in its own right.
From: william (WILLIAMA)16 Mar 00:25
To: ALL20 of 29
...also, Bollocks, I won the auction. So now I have 3 versions of Diva.