From opera. A woman superduperstar, a more-than-prima donna, often regal and difficult. When I were a wee lad (...why, we had to walk 77 miles to go to the outhouse ...but I digress.), THE Diva was Maria Callas. Now anyone can be a diva, in this Age of Attitude. Even pop singers, drag queens, Alexei Yashin, and Barry Sanders.

A 1981 film by Jean-Jacques Beineix; a nice ensemble cast, and soprano Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez as The Diva. A bootleg, a confession...

More on the 1981 film, Diva, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix...

What one reads on the back of the video box as distributed by MGM/UA in the US:

"One of the most audacious and original movies to come out of France in recent years!" (David Denby, New York Magazine)

A seductive fast-paced romantic thriller, Diva mixes music, comedy, love and murder as only a French film can. Shot on location in Paris, the city's new high tech, pop art and disco flavors are blended beautifully with its timeless monuments, and the effect is heightened by a haunting, sensuous score.

Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmena Wiggins Fernandez) is the operatic superstar whose refusal to make a recording frustrates her adoring public. An impassioned young fan named Jules (Frederic Andrei) makes a secret tape and is stalked by thugs who plan to blackmail the diva. The tension mounts as two hired killers learn that Jules has also accidently acquired a second tape on which the ex-mistress of a top mobster sings about his role in an international sex and drug ring. Pursued through Paris in some of the most dizzying chase scenes on film, Jules is aided by an eccentric godfather (Richard Bohringer), whose fast cars, high tech genius, and sexy Vietnamese playmate (Thuy An Luu) propel the film towards its wildly exciting climax.

Winner of four top French awards, Diva's "every shot seems designed to delight the audience." (The New Yorker)

MPAA Rating: R

The Highly Subjective Part of the Writeup (I know, I know, avoid highly subjective writeups, but at least I'm warning you):

Wow, they made it through the whole back of the box without saying "noir." Usually a film with subtitles half as film noiresque has it splashed all over, "I am a film noir, isn't that great?" The stylization, the confusing plotline, the macguffins (not to be confused with McMuffins! But really, why the hell was the accordian player included in the scene? Did I miss something? Was he really the key to it all?), even the cars and the weather (yes, rain) quote classic film noir. Compared to The Big Sleep, the epitome of film noir, the soundtrack's better and it's visually more interesting, but the dialogue's not nearly as much fun (then again, I've seen very few films that can touch The Big Sleep there!) and the pacing feels just a touch under-tempo. The combination of murk and bright primary colors adds a really neat touch - it feels like a darkened-out Almodovar film. And they weren't lying about the chase scenes... one in particular, through a metro station, has a wonderful combination of quickness with color and fluidity that makes it seem, contradictory as it may sound, simultaneously psychadelic and frantic. As a huge fan of Delicatessen and other Jeunet and Caro films, I feel obligated to mention that this is Dominique Pinon's film debut - he's the character known as "le curé" whose constant commentary runs "I don't like (insert whatever happens to be in range here)." I really like the casting style in general, actually; most of the characters have distinctive looks and styles instead of being cookie-cutter gorgeous. Anyway, overall, a very fun film, enjoy if you get the chance.

Di"va (de"vah), n.; It. pl. Dive (de"va). [It., prop. fem. of divo divine, L. divus.]

A prima donna.


© Webster 1913.

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