Today, most films have a structure so simple, you can abstract it in one mere sentence. Diva is not such a film, it has so much plot that I don't know where to begin. Maybe I'll begin with the two tapes the film is all about. Tape one is the bootleg record of the beautiful aria Ebben ne andro lontana from Alfredo Catalani's opera La Wally, taped during the recital of the famous opera singer Cynthia Hawkins. On tape, two Nadja, a prostitute, discloses who is the man behind a prostitution ring. The man who possesses these two tapes is Jules, a postman; tape one because he's the one who recorded it (for private use only, of course), tape two because Nadja slipped it into his bag just seconds before she's killed. Not really knowing why, Jules finds himself fleeing from the police and from the mob because of the latter tape - and since Cynthia Hawkins always refused to make tape recordings of her voice, two guys from the Taiwanese mafia, who sat just behind Jules when he recorded his bootleg, see their chance to make a fortune with it, try to get it and blackmail the diva. Meanwhile, Jule becomes friends with Cynthia Hawkins when he brings her back a dress he stole after her recital (but not after having sex with a hooker wearing it) and they spend a day together. He also encounters Alba, a nice, glib girl with a talent for shoplifting (she developed a technique that makes you wish you're the guy behind the counter) and Gorodish, the man she lives with, two people who will help him a lot in the course of the film. All this is handled by director Jean-Jacques Beineix with virtuosity. But I'm only talking about the twisted plot here, whereas Diva is so much more. It is its pop-art style, it is its unique genre-mix of Thriller and Romance, it is Jules' apartment, which looks like combination of a studio and a garage, it is its two killers who look like they escaped a Jeunet-film (and indeed Dominique Pinon, who plays one of the two killers, went on to star in Delicatessen, La cité des enfants perdus and Amélie), it is that wonderful chase scene where Jules drives down the stairs and takes the Métro with his moped, it is that absurdly funny scene with the blue Beethoven bust, it is Thuy An Luu, playing Alba as a cheerful girl that makes you wish you had a girlfriend like that, it is Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, a real-life opera singer in her only film role, playing a wonderful Cynthia Hawkins (how I love that look she gives when someone reminds her of her age), it is Gorodish ingeniously solving two problems at once, it is its wonderful ending I will not reveal her with the perfect last words (Shhhh, listen...)... I could go on with this list forever. With its hilarious story, its beautiful images, its weird characters and its joyous direction, Diva could open the door to the cinema of the rest of the world for those whose Top 10 list consist only of films as Pulp Fiction, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Usual Suspects or The Godfather. It is a film I immensely love and could watch over and over again.
Music / Thriller
Music / Thriller
Two tapes, two Parisian mob killers, one corrupt policeman, an opera fan, a teenage thief, and the coolest philosopher ever filmed all twist their way through an intricate and stylish French-language thriller.
December 12, 2020