Diva [subtitled]


Diva is a complex structured French thriller from 1981.

A young mailman in Paris is obsessed with a black American opera singer. He makes a bootleg tape of one of her performances (she has a thing about refusing to be taped, refusing to make an album, as she believes that music must be performed live), steals an article of her clothing, creates a pretense to meet her in person, etc. She is upset by him and then decides she likes him. Criminals find out about his tape and want to steal it so they can market it.

Meanwhile, a girl is murdered in his presence, slipping an incriminating tape into his bag just before the bad guys catch her. The tape establishes that a police bigwig is behind a large criminal syndicate.

The mailman falls in with a couple of hipster artist types, and together they have various adventures dealing with the different parties who want one or both tapes and will do whatever it takes to get them, while he pursues a possible romance with the opera singer.

This is one of those movies where a great deal is thrown at you with no immediate explanation, where you just have to hope that retroactively you can make sense of it. It held my interest well enough to stick with it to try to figure it out, but on the other hand never made that much of an impression on me.

In the end I probably got about 75% of it, which is unsatisfying but certainly not as bad as some foreign and indie movies I’ve seen. I’m sure a second or third viewing would make it clearer to me.

I thought the opera singer’s singing was clearly lip synched, but I read a review later praising her for her terrific singing in the movie, so I don’t know.

The story—what I could decode of it—is certainly no more plausible than that of the average thriller, and probably a little less. The notion that the opera singer would be at all receptive to the stalker guy is probably the aspect of the movie that’s hardest to swallow.

But in the end, I think this is one of those movies where the story is just a pretense to have hip visuals, snappy dialogue, etc. I think it’s all about the general “feel” of the film, the atmosphere, the milieu in which all the action takes place. B. Monkey I’d say is like that, as well as more famous movies, like maybe Pulp Fiction.

Everyone in the movie seemingly lives in a giant converted warehouse of some kind, so most of the movie takes place in these eclectic, spacious, high-ceilinged living spaces and art studios. The movie is full of Parisians who take themselves and acting cool very seriously, whether they’re artists, criminals, or both, and who say pseudo-profound things while gazing meaningfully at each other.

The cinematography is impressive I suppose, but that doesn’t mean enough to me to save an otherwise quite mediocre and at times hard to follow movie. I can understand why it would get positive reviews, why it would appeal to a certain type of hip moviegoer, but I’d rank Diva below average of the movies I’ve written about so far.


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