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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Intellectual Property

Diva (1981) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Young French postman Jules (Frédéric Andréi) appreciates opera. He appreciates in particular Negress-American opera singer Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez) who's got quite a voice. He records her on clandestine high end equipment from the third row, center section. He's observed by some unscrupulous Taiwanese business­men who want that tape at all costs. Taiwan not having signed the inter­national copy­right convention, the release of a pirated tape of the diva could have serious consequences to her career—she keeps her art pure by forcing her audience to hear her in person, not via electronic media, not having made any recordings of herself.

Nadia Kalonsky (Chantal Deruaz) a whistle-blower on an international sex trafficking ring the next day ditches her tape of the secret identity of the head of it into the panniers of Jules's mobilette just before she is stabbed to death. The two assassins are now after that tape. Two police officers who were waiting for Nadia now stake out Jules whose bike they saw receive her package. The tape names the crime boss as none other than Police Inspector Jean Saporta (Jacques Fabbri) head of homicide, the boss of the first two cops.

Events take on their own circular momentum. Meanwhile Jules connects up with a shoplifter of discothèque records, Vietnamese-French woman Alba (Thuy An Luu) who is the muse of bohemian artist Serge Gorodish (Richard Bohringer) whose existential goal is to “stop the waves.” If he involves him­self with the opera aficionado, he'll have his work cut out for him to dampen the waves that threaten to swamp the poor sap.


Gorodish is somewhat tight-lipped for a philosopher, but he does at one point quote (“Abyssus abyssum invocat”) the first words of, (Psalm 42:7) “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water­spouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.” Having to do with the waves he is, according to Alba, trying to stop, I take it to mean he is trying to arrest a feed­back loop that keeps them coming—there's a wave generating machine visible in his loft, too. In other words, pirating intellectual property is the same as pirating a physical recording medium—both seen in this film—and that's as much a crime as when some­one purloined an article of the diva's clothes (“Qui a volé la robe de la diva?”), and for that matter crime is crime, as attested by the other criminal sub­plot, no matter who commits it. All this energy feeds back on itself, round and round, and it's up to the artist to put an end to it. That's my take on this film.

This does not play out in the fashion of the usual whodunit, but, if we are using analogies from scripture, it follows the line of, (Zech. 1:8-9) “I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.” His red motor­bike fleeing down the under­ground reflects the red horse in the bottom lands. We have a red bike of the post­man, a spotted, dirty car (“speckled”) of the assassins, and the white front wheel drive car used for the pickup/drop-off of the critical exchange. Artistic­ally it works out.

(Zech. 1:10) “These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.” There is a lot of walking to and fro in the earth. The trafficking ring goes from Africa to the Foch District of Paris. Jules has gone from Paris to Bordeaux and also to Munich to hear the diva perform who is African-American (“She's the queen of Africa.”) And for that matter Jules is walking to and fro the whole movie trying to avoid the people who are after him. The woman whistle-blower does it barefoot.

(Zech. 1:11-13) “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these three­score and ten years? And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.” In this movie the indignity is the recording of the diva's pristine voice that achieves its perfection only in front of an audience. But the world, and indeed the diva's business manager is cool with artists being recorded.

(Zech. 1:14-17) “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.” The diva is greatly jealous over her singing voice and is especially aggrieved by unscrupulous manipulations trying to land a contract for her recordings.

Production Values

This movie, “Diva,” (1981) was directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix. It was based on the 1979 novel Diva by Daniel Odier. Its screen­play was written by Jean-Jacques Beineix and Jean Van Hamme. It stars Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Frédéric Andréi, and Richard Bohringer. Fernandez is found talent fitting the bill for this her one and only film role. She lives up to the title of the diva acting as an object of a youthful obsession from Andréi who possesses a youthful aura rendering him indefinable and hard not to like. Richard Bohringer is a superior French actor. He and the enchanting Vietnamese actress Thuy An Luu provided support for Jules. The former is incredibly enigmatic. The latter is agreeable but strange and whimsical. Also starring were Roland Bertin as Simon Weinstadt, Gérard Darmon as Spic, Dominique Pinon as Le Curé, Jean-Jacques Moreau as Krantz and Patrick Floersheim as Zatopek.

This film is rated R. “L'air de la 'La Wally'” was composed by Alfredo Catalani. It has a beautiful aria for a soprano, “Ebben ne andro lontano” that was performed by Wilhelmenia Fernandez (as Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez) and also serves as a theme for the film. The operatic music is a joy to hear. The style of this film was experimental, albeit it has great camera-work through­out thanks to cinema­tog­rapher Philippe Rousselot. The story is plot-heavy and maybe overly slick, but the loose ends resolve them­selves nicely at the end.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Diva” that came out with the 1980s debut of videotapes deals with intellectual property, that pilfering it is a crime like any other. Its story arcs are unusual making it difficult to follow if one wants all movies to run alike, or at least in well worn grooves. Since I'm easy to please, I liked it, seeing it was well orches­trated. How­ever, this one might be an acquired taste; it does seem to have increased its acceptance over time. Decide for your­self accordingly. It had one good protracted chase scene.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: None of the Above. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.