Jean-Jacques Beineix's ultra-stylish adaptation of Delacorta's hip crime novel DIVA remains nearly as exciting twenty years later as it was when it came out. A bit of the sheen has come off simply because it was so stylish in terms of the moment it was made. Nonetheless, so many things in it stand out as brilliantly today as when it came out. The main chase scene with the protagonist fleeing the bad guys on his scooter remains as exciting today as ever. The movie is a blend of timeless and topical elements, and the latter have aged gracefully, while the former can hardly age at all.
The film is based loosely on a novel by Delacorta, who wrote a series of books centering on the adventures of Serge and Alba, the former being an exceptionally vague sort of crime solver, and the latter a beautiful and exceptionally young female companion. The movie pushes the two lead characters of the novel and makes them secondary to the plot, and takes the blonde young girl and makes her Asian. Beineix is less concerned with their story than with that of Jules, a young man who has made a surreptitious, high quality recording of a African American opera singer who refuses to be recorded for mass distribution. The plot revolves around his accidentally and unknowingly becoming involved (a la Hitchcock) with criminals, and being simultaneously being chased by them and by others who want his recording.
When DIVA came out, it seemed to be heralding the arrival of a major new directorial talent in Jean-Jacques Beineix. He followed DIVA with the beautiful to look at but overall quite disappointing THE MOON IN THE GUTTER. His subsequent output has also failed to fulfill the promise that DIVA seemed to announce. Be this as it may, it hardly undermines the brilliance of his debut effort. It remains one of the great thrillers of the past two decades, and as exciting today as ever.