Two tapes, two Parisian mob
killers, one corrupt policeman, an
opera fan, a teenage thief, and
the coolest philosopher ever
filmed. All these characters twist
their way through an intricate and
stylish French language thriller.
Wilhelmenia Fernandez Cynthia Hawkins (Diva)
Frédéric Andréi Jules (mailman and opera lover))
Richard Bohringer Serge Gorodish (philosopher)
Thuy An Luu Alba (teen thief and muse)
Jacques Fabbri Jean Saporta (Chief Inspector)
Chantal Deruaz Nadia (the prostitute victim)
Anny Romand Paula (Detective)
Gérard Darmon L' Antillais (Spic – corrupt
Dominique Pinon Le curé (corrupt detective)
Jean-Jacques Beineix's wonderfully
stylish thriller was largely responsible for
the renaissance of foreign language film
in the UK in the early 80s and remains
impressive viewing today.
The story of Jules (Andrei), an opera-obsessed
courier whose bootleg recording of a rare
concert by American diva Cynthia Hawkins
(Wiggins-Fernandez) is believed to be a tape
connecting the chief of police with a Parisian
vice ring precipitates a frantic search for its
whereabouts by two murderous thugs
(Dominique Pinon and Gerard Darmon).
Beineix's debut - from the
impressively taut novel by
Delacorta - is not only
stunningly composed (director
of photography Philippe
Rousselot imbues the film with
a seductive neon
hue), peppered with thrills like
the moped chase on the
Metro, it also fair bristles
with a sadistic, Dystopian
tension in which heroes and
villains are readily
A hybrid of genres:
noir, new-wave, and
fairytale romance -
"Diva" has the lot yet
still manages to wear
its composite nature
with distinct daring and
The cast of Diva
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover 
Richard Bohringer [the Cook]
[Serge Gorodish] Richard Bohringer left
The cast acquit
[Le Fleuriste] Richard Bohringer
Richard Bohringer – [Pelo]
Le grand chemin 1987
His most famous roles have been in the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and
[Le Curé] in Diva 
[Louison] in Delicatessen
[Fracasse] in MicMacs 
[Joseph] in Amélie 
Inventor‟s Clones in City of Lost Children 
Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, is an
American soprano, born in Philadelphia in
1949, became famous as Cynthia Hawkins,
star of the film Diva (1981).
Vladimir Cosma's opera-tinged score rounds things off
nicely, creating a witty, playful intelligent film as
enjoyable as it is influential. A rarity, something from
the 80s well worth re-visiting.
After a long apprenticeship as assistant to directors as
diverse as Jerry Lewis, on the unreleased The Day the
Clown Cried, and Claude Berri on Le male du siècle,
Jean-Jacques Beineix emerged as a director in his own
right with the intelligent thriller, Diva.
Motobécane 88 LC
Beineix's talents also extend to screenwriting and
producing, and in the 1980s, along with directors Luc
Besson and Leos Carax, he helped establish a category of
French films sometimes known as "Cinema du Look."
also extend to
producing, and in
the 1980s, along
with directors Luc
Besson and Leos
Carax, he helped
establish a category
of French films
sometimes known as
"Cinema du Look."
Defined by its slogan "the image is the message," the
Cinema du Look consists of films in which appearances
are more important than reality, and in which style is
more important than plot or content.
Sometimes considered to be the inaugural film of this
new style, Beineix's first solo project is one of the
most influential French films of the 1980s.
Diva self-consciously addresses what have become
known as postmodern themes: it is full of images of
reflective glass buildings, and its plot centres on the
relative value of recorded music and information.
The diva of the film's title
is an American opera star
who refuses to be recorded
but finds that this only
increases the value of
bootleg recordings of her
performances. It is when one
of these bootleg tapes is
confused with a tape that
incriminates a politician that
the plot takes off.
As Film Studies theorist Jill Forbes points out, however, the
central figure of the drama is not the diva herself, but the
mail courier who makes the bootleg recording. The film's
point, argues Forbes, is that the circulation of information
is more important than production.
The glossy style of the "Cinema du Look" transferred
easily to TV advertising, and Beineix became involved
in making commercials after the success of Diva. Like
TV commercials, which he has claimed "capture
youth," his films tend to employ intense colours and
lighting effects, as well as stylized or strange
locations. It is thought, for example, that most of
the 7.5 million Franc budget for Diva went on sound
and vision rather than high-profile actors.
Despite his influence on the direction of French cinema since the
1980s, Beineix's later films have failed to live up to the early
promise of Diva and 37 2 le matin.
Unlike his contemporary, Luc Besson, Beineix could be said to have
stuck closely to the spirit of "Cinema du Look," but he seems also
to have gone on ignoring its limitations.
Diva is no longer as cool and enigmatic as it once appeared and
perhaps it now looks slightly daft and dated.
Some of the film’s qualities still shine through however – its sense
of time, its locations, lighting, photography and the central story
of the postman and the diva.
Its influence can be seen in the films of Jeunet et Caro
(Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children) and particularly Ridley
Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).
Spaces and Setting:
The director, Jean-Jacques Beineix, has placed the
story/action in a series of carefully chosen settings, the
majority of which are "real" spaces in Paris and its
The argument is whether this framing is an example of
Film Style or Style over Substance.
“Diva” gives us a voyeuristic view of two contrasting lifestyles. One is the
cool, dark lifestyle of the „philosppher” , Serge Gorodish, while the other is of
a mail courier named Jules. Bieneux uses architectural space and
cinematography to carefully give us a voyeuristic view into the lifestyles of
each. This is most evident upon viewing the dwelling of each.
Both live in large spacious lofts. Jules‟ loft in particular is much darker and
dungy looking then Gorodish‟s loft. Just as Jules and his obsession with
Cynthia remain a mystery to us so does his loft. In his loft we see very neutral
colours along with various objects dangling and spread all over. In this
sense, his loft appears as a shady auto wrecker‟s garage. It accurately
depicts the conditions you would predict for the young courier. Not only does
this help in the development of Jules‟ character but it also helps reinforce the
mystery aspect of the film and create an environment for the action aspect of
the film to unfold. The playing of Opera gives order to this chaos.
Gorodish‟ loft on the other hand drastically differs from Jules. It is an
unbroken, minimalist landscape in comparison to Jules‟ loft. Here we a very
long room with no obvious partitions with areas for bed, kitchen, music and
contemplation. Blues and greys dominate the palette. Here an unearthly hum
dominates the soundscape.