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Film / Diva

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"C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."

Diva is a 1981 film directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix, based on a novel by Delacorta.

The film's hero, Jules, is a postman. He is a fan of American opera diva Cynthia Hawkins, who has never allowed herself to be recorded. He sneaks a recorder into one of her performances and makes a high-quality bootleg tape, which becomes one of the two MacGuffins driving the plot as Taiwanese gangsters try to buy it for the purposes of releasing an unauthorized record. The other MacGuffin is a cassette tape of a confession by a soon-to-be-dead prostitute in which she implicates Saporta, a high-ranking police official, in an organized crime ring. Two different gangs are after him as they confuse one tape for the other. Meanwhile, Jules becomes friends with Gorodish, a middle-aged, bohemian man of mystery, and Alba, his companion. A memorable chase scene takes place in the Paris Metro. Jules meets Cynthia Hawkins, the object of his Loony Fandom and, after she gets over her initial shock and anger, she becomes attracted to him and romance ensues.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bald of Evil: Le Curé.
  • Blackmail:
    • The Taiwanese gangsters tell Cynthia that they have the bootleg recording of her performance of "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana" from Catalani's La Wally (they don't really, but she doesn't know this), and that if she doesn't agree to sign a recording contract with them, they'll release the bootleg as an "official" recording.
    • When Gorodish gets hold of the tape of Nadia's testimony against Saporta, he tells the latter he will make the tape's contents public unless he is paid off.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Gorodish. He wears a snorkeling mask while cooking; his only furniture appears to be a stereo system and a kinetic sculpture that mimics ocean waves. He is also a Crazy-Prepared strategist (see The Chessmaster) with a working knowledge of opera, organized crime, petty crime, etc., etc.
  • Catchphrase: "Je n'aime pas ... " ("I don't like ..."), Le Curé. Lampshaded when Zatopek says, "You don't like anything."
  • Chase Scene: Mobstacle Course turns into a Train Escape on the Paris Metro in what is probably the most memorable movie chase since The French Connection.
  • The Chessmaster: Gorodish is one of these as he plays the two gangs off against each other. Subverted because Gorodish is on the side of the hero.
  • Composite Character: In the novel, Saporta is just a gangster who works with Dirty Cop Boulanger, while in the movie, they're the same character.
  • Cool Car: Gorodish's Citroën Traction Avant 11. Times two; he allows Saporta to blow up one car while escaping in the other.
  • Cool House:
    • Gorodish's "country house" on the coast is a lighthouse. His city house is a vast warehouse space - Alba rollerskates through it while he kicks back in a tub out in the middle of the floor, smoking a cigar.
    • Jules' place is in a dumpy industrial space, with a cool automotive mural and all the money invested in high-end stereo equipment.
  • Dirty Cop: Saporta.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Nadia, the prostitute who drops the cassette tape in Jules's mailbag, is killed by Saporta's henchmen for identifying him as the head of the prostitution ring that employs her.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Jules and Cynthia, takes place in a single night rather than over a series of dates.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the novel by Delacorta, which is part of a series of novels involving Gorodish and Alba.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: Nadia the prostitute shoves the tape recording of her confession into Jules' bag seconds before Le Curé kills her.
  • Instant Sedation: Gorodish knocks out Le Curé with some sort of gas from a spray can.
  • Loony Fan: Jules not only steals Cynthia Hawkins's dress, but has a prostitute wear it while he has sex with her. Talk about creepy.
  • MacGuffin: Times two; Jules' bootleg recording of Cynthia's concert, sought by the Taiwanese gangsters, and the audio recording of Nadia naming Saporta as the kingpin of a drug trafficking and prostitution ring.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Played with a little bit. Alba is a chronic shoplifter. Jules first becomes attracted to her when he sees her steal from a record shop. After they start dating, she gives Jules a shoplifted Rolex.
  • Police Are Useless: They achieve very little themselves. And Da Chief is corrupt.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Most of the major characters smoke. Gorodish in particular, arguably the "coolest" character, smokes like a chimney.
  • Stalking Is Love: Cynthia Hawkins's eventual attraction to Loony Fan Jules.