Diva: Meridian Collection – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Opera can be hazardous to your health. Diva is the tale of two tapes, two sets of mobsters and a delivery boy with a satchel filled with danger. When Diva arrived in America, it reminded the art house crowd that a French film didn’t have to alienate to entertain. Instead of an intellectually challenging slow moving epic, Diva was action with an arty edge. It created a chase scene through Paris worthy of comparisons to The French Connection.

Jules (Frédéric Andréi) is a special delivery mailman infatuated with opera singer Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Fernandez). What makes Hawkins unique is her refusal to record an album. She wants the music to exist in the moment. Jules sneaks a Nagra tape recorder into a concert and bootlegs the show. He wants to take her voice home. But then he goes one step further and steals the Diva’s gown from her dressing room. Asian mobsters are eager to get their hands on Jules’ tape. Their country has no copyright law so they can put out the recording and export it around the world to eager opera lovers without her permission.

Unbeknownst to Jules, he’s become tangled in a nasty piece of police business. A prostitute wants to expose a major white slavery ring. Before she is killed by two hitmen, she deposits a tape of her confession in Jules’ motor scooter’s satchel. The hitmen are now after him. Except he thinks it’s the Asian record pirates that are destroying his life.

The only real help for Jules is found in the strange couple of Gorodish (Richard Bohringer) and Alba (Thuy An Luu). He’s an artsy middle aged guy attempting to unlock the secrets of a wave machine. He does giant puzzles of waves. The character is slightly based on musical genius Serge Gainsbourg. She’s a young gal with a great system for shoplifting vinyl albums. While not the most stable of compatriots, they are his only hope to survive.

Diva maintains its cult cool after all these years. The balance of romance, action and art has remained stable. The film hasn’t been reduced to camp or an artifact of its time. The chase through the metro station is still a thrill ride. Diva persists as a top notch crime flick with a French twist.


The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic. There’s a lot of grain to the image which is reflective in the film stock of the time. Director Jean-Jacques Beineix approved of the transfer. The audio is French Dolby Digital mono. The subtitles are in English and Spanish. The levels are proper. You can really appreciate Wilhelmenia Fernandez’s singing. Beineix provides a commentary on seven scenes. While the director speaks in French, a translator talks over him. This is annoying if you can understand French.


Searching for Diva (81:25) is a 10-part documentary about the film with interviews with the cast and crew. All the angles get covered. Director Jean-Jacques Beineix discusses his struggles after the success of the film. A translator talks over the questions and answers instead of giving us subtitles.


Diva is a masterpiece in its mixing of the passionate with the cold-blooded. If you enjoy crime flicks and French cinema, you’ll be blissed out. Diva brings high art to the underworld genre.

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Lionsgate presents Diva. Directed by: Jean-Jacques Beineix. Starring: Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Frédéric Andréi, Richard Bohringer, Thuy An Luu. Written by: Jean-Jacques Beineix & Jean Van Hamme. Running time: 117 minutes. Rating: R. Theatrically Released: March 11, 1981. Released on DVD: June 3, 2008. Available at Amazon.com

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