A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 46 – Diva

Diva – April 15th, 2010

My mother introduced this movie to me when I was in high school. She had it on VHS and kept telling me that she knew I’d love it and I asked her what it was about. “Oh, well. It’s about this opera singer, and a young man who loves her, and there’s sort of a murder mystery that’s not so much a mystery and really, you just have to watch it. It’s complicated, but you’ll love it.” And she was right. When I finally sat down with her and watched it beginning to end, I was entranced. It’s a fantastic thriller wrapped up in something I’m not really even sure how to categorize.

There’s just so much going on in this movie. It’s wonderfully complex, with lots of little plots that weave together into a single story. It might seem to be confusing, but it’s not. The writing and the pacing and the direction are so perfect, you know every little thread, even if you don’t know how it will turn out. There’s the main character, a mailman named Jules, who is obsessed with an opera singer who refuses to release any recordings of her singing. He’s surreptitiously recorded one of her concerts and now has two mobsters from Taiwan after him for the recording so they can mass produce it. And then there’s a former prostitute, who escaped from a slavery ring with a tape of details she recorded, only to be killed by two hitmen before she can hand the tape over to the police. It ends up in Jules’ moped’s mail bags. So Jules has two recordings wanted by two different pairs of dangerous men after him, and through it all he’s not sure who it is who’s looking for which tape and what, precisely, is going on. And that’s just the action plots.

The actiony bits make it sound like it should be all chases and guns and things like that. But it’s not. There’s a bit of humor with the hitmen, one of whom only says variations on a single line, stating the things he doesn’t like (he’s played by Dominique Pinion, who is instantly recognizable in anything he does). There’s Jules’ meeting and subsequent date with the opera singer, which is sweeter and slower and romantic and quirky. There’s the thief, Alba, whom Jules meets in a record store and who then introduces him to the man she lives with, Gorodish, a philosopher who spends much of the movie working on a gigantic puzzle of a wave (my mother likens him to a Bohemian John Steed, but that might just be because of the car). Where Jules is all naivete and rash decisions, Gorodish is experience and thought. And then there’s all the opera. It makes the movie deeper than a typical action thriller. It makes the movie sad in some ways and touching in others. It makes the action mean something more.

Weirdly enough, even though this movie is from the early 1980s and the music is all on reel-to-reel players and vinyl, the piracy plot is actually still rather relevant. Sadly, I think the slavery plot is too, but isn’t in the news as much. It’s clear that the movie was made at that awkward 70s/80s transition time based on the technology and the hairstyles, but otherwise it feels somewhat timeless to me. Granted, today it would be difficult for an artist to hold out so long without recording at all or being recorded well enough for pirates to release something, but I can ignore that. I love this movie for taking me into its bizarre and dangerous and beautiful story.


April 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 2 Comments


April 15, 2010


We decided today to do something less mainstream and American, so we’ve put in Diva. Because this 1981 French mystery is one of the stranger and cooler things that we own. For one thing its pacing is like no commercial American blockbuster. It dedicates the first five minutes of the movie to a performance of a single aria, which is well because much of the movie hinges on that performance, and on the young delivery driver Jules who makes an illicit recording of it. But it also sets the mood for the whole film. It’s a contemplative, melancholy movie. Which is odd because it’s also an action film with a convoluted plot that involves a criminal mastermind, his two henchmen who are killing everybody who might know his identity, Jules and his pirate recording, a beautiful young free spirited thief named Alba and the enigmatic Jean with whom she is living.

Sure there are car chases and gunfights, but everything has a dreamlike otherworldly quality. Like during the chase scene when an inspector is pursuing Jules the wrong way up an escalator. And it’s helped along by the beautiful and ethereal soundtrack. Everything is slightly off, slightly not right.

So yes, it’s dreamy and magical and beautiful. A strange gem of a movie that captivates me and bedazzles me. I can’t help loving it. I love Jules’ strange car-crash themed loft. I love Jean and his cool phase – how he wants to stop the wave. I love the sardonic killer who doesn’t like anything (played by a very young Dominique Pinon – who we will re-visit in City of Lost Children.) I love this murder mystery and thriller which is so very, very French.

I wish there were more movies like this, but I guess that would dilute it’s awesome. I’ll just have to be satisfied with watching this one from time to time so as to remind myself that movies can be so much more than we have come to expect them to be.

April 15, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 2 Comments