Still having to get into my blog through a back door, but at least I'm able to post and respond to comments. Can't complain TOO much. Though I wish Google Blogger would fix whatever it is that continues to ail them. Still having problems posting on some other blogs...no rhyme or reason.
DIVA is a crime thriller/love story about, among other things, the inchoate power of music. It is peopled with a cast of eccentrics - good guys and bad - set in a down to earth Paris location that still manages to retain its aura of mystery. The film is directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix - a movie-maker to whom extravagant visuals must be life's blood.
The basic story is all about this: A love-lorn postman, an opera diva, two recording tapes, two nasty mob killers, one corrupt policeman, two inept police detectives, two sinister Taiwanese record pirates and one very cool philosopher (owner of the most gorgeous Citroen automobile I've ever seen) who steps in to save the day. (I took the internet movie database's rather spare description and enhanced it.) The movie is a twisting, winding, intricate thriller that is actually three separate skeins woven into one and if you don't pay attention you'll easily miss something important.
DIVA, first and foremost, is obviously the creation of someone who adores the art of film - I don't know much about the director, Jean Jacques Beineix, he doesn't seem to have made many more films, but the visualization, art direction and action sequences in DIVA prove his adoration of the medium. The film is a curious combo of pop art, graphic comic action and film noir done in bright, often flat, comic book colors.
Hawkins has never recorded, never made any records or performance tapes - never heard herself sing on tape. She doesn't believe in it. She is eccentric enough to prefer only the 'live' experiencing of performance and defends this quirk to her agent, her public and anyone else who wishes it were otherwise. Only a real and beloved diva could get away with this sort of thing.
In the audience the night of the Paris recital, sitting near Jules, are two Taiwanese men (made sinister in appearance by their wearing of sunglasses in the darkened audience) who notice what Jules is up to. We immediately surmise that they are interested in the recording and a light bulb goes off in our heads - record pirates! The aria that Hawkins is singing that night is: La Wally from the opera by Catalani written in 1892. It is exquisite. You can see on Jules's face, how transformed he becomes, how drawn in he is by Hawkins' beauty and the sound of her alluring voice. He doesn't notice that two sinister men in sunglasses are watching him intently. After the recital, he goes backstage and chats briefly with the diva, as he leaves, he steals the dress she wore that evening while performing.
The headlines the next day: Who stole the diva's dress?
The following morning, a dazed woman on the run from thugs, is shot down in front of some cops sitting in a cafe; she manages to hide a very incriminating audio tape of her lover - the crime boss who happens to be the chief of police, Jean Saporta (not revealing much, we learn this pretty early in the film). As she staggers and falls she drops the tape inside a postman's sack attached to 'un mobilette' (a scooter). The postman is none other than Jules of the illegal taping of the night before. He finds the tape when he returns from delivering mail, but puts it aside with a shrug as something unimportant, possibly a tape he, himself, had forgotten about.
In the meantime, Jules has picked up the serious attentions of the two Taiwanese who want to get their hands on Jules' taping of Cynthia Hawkins' recital. But more importantly, he has also crossed the radar of two very ugly mob killers who have just killed the woman with the incriminating tape of the chief of police. Notice why you have to pay attention.
One of many visual highlights in the film is the view we first get of Jules' idiosyncratic apartment which is in a building that, obviously, was once a car repair garage. The walls of his flat are covered in huge, graphic paintings of flashy women and even flashier cars. It is the place where Jules keeps his expensive German recording and playing equipment - the only luxury he appears to indulge in. It is where he goes to listen, in solitude, to his recording of Cynthia Hawkins, the elusive diva. While listening he wraps her dress around his neck for comfort. Later, when he picks up a prostitute, he makes her wear the dress. Jules is obviously in danger of falling too deeply into obsession.
In the meantime, Jules has managed to meet the diva again and confesses he was the one who made off with her dress. But he is so obviously besotted with her that she forgives him - finding something touching in his devotion. She explains to him that she cannot bear the thought of recording her voice - there is no immediacy, no spontaneity in a recording. They spend the day together in some beautiful vignettes as they walk around Paris - accompanied by a stirring soundtrack - and later return to her suite at the hotel. But she holds him at bay, still cautious. He sleeps on a divan, alone.
Afterward, Jules, overcome with guilt, tries to make things right. But he finds he cannot break free of the web which is closing in around him as he is followed by killers and recording pirates (neither knowing of the others' existence). Jules must fend for himself without knowing who his enemies are or why they're after him, until he listens to the tape he found in his mail satchel.
Little by little, Jules begins to put together the pieces of the puzzle. But he has no one to turn to as the cops can't be trusted and he doesn't want to let any of the sordid details touch the elusively pristine haven he's found with his diva. The dichotomy between the gentle love story and the brutish details of the other is filmed in a way that makes sure we understand Jules' reluctance to allow each to touch the other.
But Jules appears to have lost control of his life. There is a terrific chase sequence when Jules, on a borrowed motorbike, eludes the cops, riding the bike into, onto and out of the Metro. Another harrowing sequence in the film occurs on a night when the killers close in and Jules, stabbed and bleeding, must elude them within the garish confines of an arcade. With no one left to turn to he makes one desperate call to Gorodish, a man he hardly knows, but instinctively trusts.
When finally, Jules is able to return his concert tape to the diva, he first plays it on the loudspeaker system in the hall where she is alone, rehearsing. She hears her own voice on recording for the first time. He takes her in his arms.
A very satisfying ending.
Please watch the trailer of DIVA, here.