More than 25 years ago I watched the cult movie Diva, a French language film made in 1981. With the passage of time, I’d forgotten the details of the story-line, but I did at least recall that I’d rather enjoyed it, so I decided to give it another go.
I’m glad I did. It’s a gorgeously made film, and it has a complicated plot, with perhaps too many turns for plausibility. This isn’t, first and foremost, a realistic film, but rather a movie that is stylish and studded with memorable scenes and setting. It marked the debut of director, Jean-Jacques Beineix, and is an impressive piece of work.
The set-up is that Jules (Frederic Andrei) is a postman, who travels around Paris on his moped, while nourishing an obsessive devotion for black American opera singer Cynthia Hawkins. Although he’s an appealing character in many ways, his obsession makes him seem like a stalker at times. He makes a bootleg tape of one of Cynthia’s performances (she refuses ever to make a recording of her concerts), steals Cynthia’s gown, and pays a prostitute to wear it for him. It’s a tribute to the director and the actor that, despite all this, we want him to survive when he gets into trouble.
And the trouble he gets into is serious. A woman who is being pursued by gangsters hides a cassette tape (which contains incriminating information about a criminal mastermind) in the postman’s moped. Confusion ensues between this tape and the bootleg of the diva’s singing. Jules finds himself pursued not only by the criminal mastermind and his thuggish accomplices but also by Taiwanese crooks who want to profit from recordings of Cynthia’s performances. How can Jules, who is both reckless and naive, possibly save his skin?
The film is based on a book by Delacorta, whose work I haven’t read. But seeing this film made me wonder if it was time to track down his books and give them a try.