Monday, November 12, 2007

Viva Diva

This past weekend me and my friend Peter went to the Film Forum to see the revival of Diva. We had free tickets thanks to my close friend Lee who did the poster for the film (he does the posters for all the special films that show there.) and he had two tickets waiting for us at the box office for the first show. Diva, which is Jean-Jacques Beineix’s first film, is a quirky colorful pop mixture of action, romance, music and fairy tale that is based on a pop novel by the French writer Delacorta. The story is this. A young French postal delivery boy named Jules, is an opera lover & a big fan of the beautiful, & eccentric African American diva Cynthia Hawkins who is performing in Paris when the movie opens. Ms. Hawkins played by the beautiful opera singer Wilhelmenia Fernandez refuses to sing for recordings, and this quirk of hers is what sets the action of the movie moving. Jules decides to tape Hawkins in performance, after which he goes backstage to meet the diva, and promptly steals the gown she wore at the concert, which he sometimes uses as a scarf when its not hanging in a shrine he has made to her in his large loft filled with discarded cars. The plot really gets tangled when Jules, while on his way to a delivery witnesses the murder of a barefooted young woman who is carrying a tape that has a lot of plot and secrets on it. Who is she, and why does she wind up with an ice pick in her back is one of the movie's many enjoyable plot devices that slowly unravels as the film goes on. While on her way to the ice pick the lady drops her tape (unknown to him at the time) in Jules delivery pouch, and the chase so to speak is on. Jules charmingly played by Frederic Andrei is not only in danger from the very creepy killers of the lady, but also from two shady Japanese record producers who want his pirated tape of Hawkins beautiful aria from "La Wally" that Jules recorded. Very much influenced by American crime thrillers & film noir but very much it's own film, Diva is a delight from the very beginning to the beautiful ending which takes place on an empty stage and always moves me to shed a few tears. One of the terrific things about Diva is its lively cast of characters all wonderfully played. Thuy An Luu as the young & sexy Vietnamese model Alba, is most winning as the companion of the strange & seemingly very wealthy recluse played by the great Richard Bohringer. These are characters and performances to embrace; they make one feel good. There are many wonderful set pieces including a quite amazing chase on motorbike through the Paris metro, a stroll in the early morning hours around Paris with Jules and Hawkins, and of course the gorgeous singing of Ms. Fernandez. Beautifully photographed by Philippe Rousselot this is one of the highlights of 1982, and among the very best of the decade. There is also a somewhat new and restored DVD that does justice to the film both in the quality of the picture and sound.


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