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For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 28, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: One of my favorite foreign films of the 1980s is this thriller, with music, humor and dazzling visuals. This new Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber is a stunner and is highly recommended. My review was published in the Deseret News on Sept. 10, 1982.

At last! A film that lives up to its press.

“Diva” carries with it so many rave reviews that one has to be wary going in, but it’s every bit as entertaining and intriguing as its reputation indicates.

The story is extremely complicated with dozens of twists and turns, characters who are not what they seem and a bizarre side of life that only a movie fan could love. Though there are elements of Alfred Hitchcock hanging on various turns, “Diva” is really a very original effort from director Jean-Jacques Beineix, who also co-wrote the script and is solely credited with dialogue.

An assistant director for the past decade, Beineix has come up with a first-directing outing that is a prime example of a director’s picture. This film is loaded with dazzling visuals; every new angle or scene offers a unique view from the gliding camera, at once embracing the audience and throwing it off guard. You never know from one moment to the next where he will take you but you begin to expect after a short while that wherever it is will be thrilling — and he never lets you down.

       

            Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, 'Diva' (1982)

The “Diva” is a gorgeous American soprano who has never allowed her voice to be recorded — at least not legally. Bootleg recordings exist but the quality is so poor no one cares.

But the hero of our piece, a young French postal worker who is her most ardent fan, manages to smuggle some professional recording equipment into a Paris concert, coming up with a tape so clear that some sinister Taiwanese record people are determined to get it by hook or crook. At the same time, the young man inadvertently comes into possession of a cassette that exposes a prostitution-drug ring.

Soon he comes in contact with a pair of oddball characters, a young Vietnamese girl and a man going through his “cool” phase, who may or may not help him out.

Essentially what we have here is the Hitchcock innocent brought into international intrigue through no fault of his own. But Beineix lavishes the storyline and bright modern dialogue with some of the finest cinematic art work to come along in many years. The editing is also especially noteworthy.

In addition, there are dozens of superb performances from some great character actors: As the title character, Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez is incredibly beautiful with a voice to match — it’s not hard to imagine the music world being completely in love with her; Frederic Andrei is delightful as the befuddled young man who isn’t quite sure what he’s become involved in but ingeniously manages to repeatedly escape the clutches of those pursuing him; as the young, pop Vietnamese girl, Thuy An Luu epitomizes the weird, off-the-wall modern youngster who lives for the moment; and Richard Bohringer is hilarious as a fellow so mellow, yet right on top of everything that is going on.

      

But what really holds it all together is the director’s tongue, which is consistently planted firmly in his cheek. He never takes any of this too seriously, so, of course, how can we?

The R rating is for nude photographs of Luu and a prostitute dressing in a dark room, obvious indications that this is adult fare. There is some violence and profanity, as well.

“Diva” is in French with English subtitles (and a few bits of spoken English from Fernandez), but if ever there was a film that should not be avoided due to subtitles, it’s this one.

“Diva” is quite simply a wildly entertaining experience and a cinematic delight. Don’t miss it.