An elegant French thriller that practically sets the tone for the French thrillers of the 1980s, Diva has plenty of intrigue. The film runs for three quarters, with great sets, crackling suspense and characters you really care about, but the last quarter of the film is a bit of a twist.
A humble Parisian letter carrier gets into trouble with human traffickers and shady businessmen from Taiwan who come looking for him when they realize he has two very valuable cassettes.
Jules (Frederic Andrew), a humble letter carrier, secretly records a live performance of an opera singer. He has done it before: he records his beloved singer Diva (Wilhelmena Wiggins Fernandez), who has never had her voice recorded, for his own pleasure. He has traveled all over Europe on his moped to record his performances, and he is probably the only person in the world who has archived his performances. He is delivering his mail the next day when a woman shoots a cop in the street in front of him, but no one notices that she has put the tape in the mailman’s bag. It turns out that the woman was a victim of sex trafficking, and she has recorded evidence that a well-known police chief was behind the sex trafficking, and now Jules has that evidence, even though he has no idea. While the police and the killers are looking for him (they soon find out he has the tape), he has other things to do when a strange young Vietnamese model starts dating him. She takes her last pirated copy of Diva’s show and gives it to her lover, a reclusive eccentric who knows exactly what the pirated copy is worth. Suddenly, some shady guys from Taiwan are after Jules because they now know he copied Diva’s show. They are willing to offer him a lot of money for the record, but if they can’t pay for it, they are willing to make a killing for it. With two priceless records in his pocket, Jules has his hands full, but if he doesn’t make the right alliances soon, he won’t live long enough to see another sunrise.
An elegant French thriller that practically sets the tone for the French thrillers of the 1980s, Diva has plenty of intrigue. The film is three-quarters finished, with great sets, crackling suspense and characters you really care about, but the last quarter of the film is kind of a twist. I really enjoyed the editing, and one of my favorite parts of the film is the young Vietnamese girl and her strange benefactor always working on a giant puzzle on the floor (super touch), but by the end of the film I found myself with a sense of boredom and dissatisfaction. There is still much to love here, and director Jean-Jacques Bénier has really done something special with French cinema here. Without this film, Luc Besson would probably never have made “Metro” or “The Mrs. Nikita,” and the French New Wave of the 1980s would not have provided the spark that ignited a lot of great films.
Kino Lorber recently released a special “diva” edition with a host of extras, including a director’s commentary on a particular scene, an audio commentary by the film’s historian, a new introduction, seven new video interviews with the cast and crew, and much more.