The French may yet be making movies with beaucoup existential philosophy, punctuated by soulful smoking and doleful silence, but "Diva" surely is not one of them. It is, instead, a light-headed romp with no intent but to entertain.
Written and directed by one Jean-Jacques Beineix, it has enough zaniness, pace and plot to recall Hollywood's best Depression- era comedies. And while its vision is darker than that of "Bringing Up Baby," it moves with the same delightful implausibility.
"Diva" concerns the adventures of a young mail carrier who's hopelessly in love with a stunning black American soprano. Early in the movie, he's sitting moonily in a concert hall as the object of his passion belts heavenly arias.
He weeps for joy, but also adjusts the knobs of his Swiss-made tape deck, concealed in his satchel in violation of house rules; when it's over he stands and cheers, then goes backstage to steal his beloved diva's gown.
That -- plus a chance encounter with a barefoot hooker being chased by two thugs, and an equally odd brush with a mini- skirted shoplifter -- is enough to get him into serious hot water, but also into the arms of his great true love.
Through it all, he must flee corrupt cops, goons who work for corrupt cops, honest cops, Taiwanese record pirates and Parisian prostitutes, while a modern-day sorcerer tries to pluck him out of danger. In the bargain, there's gunfire, bombs and daggers enough to keep things tense, and a chase scene through the Paris metro that's actually fresh and surprising -- just when you thought everything possible already had been done with that old bit of business.
Frederic Andrei, as Jules, plays boyish innocence and mischief to the hilt, with a wide-eyed how-can-this-be-happening-to- me? look that's as funny at the end as it is at the start. And real-life soprano Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez of the New York City Opera, playing the title role, makes it easy to empathize with Jules' infatuation. DIVA -- In French with English subtitles. At the K-B Fine Arts.