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DIVA (director/writer: Jean-Jacques Beineix; screenwriters: Jean Van Hamme/from the novel by Daniel Odier; cinematographer: Philippe Rousselot; editors: Monique Prim/Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte; music: Vladimir Cosma; cast: Wilhelmenia Wiggins (Cynthia Hawkins), Frédéric Andréi (Jules), Richard Bohringer (Gorodish), Dominique Pinion (Thug, Priest), Gerard Darmon (Thug, L’ Antillais), Roland Bertin (Simon Weinstadt, opera manager), Chantal Deruaz (Nadia), Jacques Fabbri (Jean Saporta), Thuy An Luu (Alba), Anny Romand (Paula), Patrick Floersheim (Zatopek), Jean-Jacques Moreau (Krantz); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Irène Silberman/Serge Silberman; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1981-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Intelligent, gripping and slick French thriller.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jean-Jacques Beineix (“The Moon in the Gutter”/”Betty Blue”), in his debut as a director, earns a place on the international scene with this intelligent, gripping and slick French thriller. It’s exhilarating, fast-moving, breathtaking in its camerawork and stylishly chic. It throws together in its surreal, arty and violent cityscape omelet such ingredients as: film noir and oddball characters, a dazzling Zen guru (Richard Bohringer) who cooks while in scuba gear, an art student and shoplifting refreshingly blasé Vietnamese young woman with a heart of gold named Alba (Thuy An Luu), chilling punky killer thugs (Gerard Darmon & Dominique Pinion, with the latter standing out as the totally negative soul who brandishes an ice pick), a crooked Paris chief of police (Jacques Fabbri)–the head of a drug-and-prostitution ring, a dedicated honest lady cop (Anny Romand) who is being unwittingly used by her crooked boss, prostitutes walking along Avenue Foch and a stunningly attractive visiting black American diva named Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins). It’s a wild ride through the streets of Paris that has a moped ride in the Metro to escape a mobster on foot; a prostitute named Nadia (Chantal Deruaz) with a cassette recording revealing her ruthless street boss, who is stabbed with an ice pick in the back in the middle of a crowded street in broad daylight but still has the presence of mind to toss the tape into the mailbag of a passing postman courier; an opera singer who lets a devoted fan she just met take a bath in her hotel suite because he digs her soprano voice so much and, if that weren’t enough of an extraordinary ride, it concludes in an orgy of violence in the bizarre warehouse loft apartment of the music lover hero postman Jules (Frédéric Andréi).

The diva of the title, Cynthia, belts out a robust aria to open the pic. Jules is in attendance; he’s a devoted fan of the renowned opera singer, who has never heard herself sing and, for the sake of pure art, refuses to make records. But Jules during the concert has made a pirate version on state of the art equipment that is technically perfect.

The record Jules made of the diva was stolen by the Vietnamese girl. Alba lives with the Zen guru, who is always exuding existentialist charm. She has the freedom to date Jules and also roller skate inside her castle digs, while her main man meditates and shows off the wealth fit for a king. Two ruthless gangster Taiwanese record company agents, who got wind that the bootleg record of the diva is in the hands of the Zen guru, camp outside his digs threatening to steal it and, when that fails, offering big money to buy it so they can force the diva to sign an exclusive contract with their record company or else threaten to release the record.

The secondary plot has Jules being a marked man, as those criminals responsible for killing the prostitute are after him because he has her tape.

The non-stop thrill ride is most entertaining, hitting a high note for most of the flick; it’s most enjoyable as a visual treat that rocks on.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”