DIVA
1981, Rialto Pictures, 123 min, France, Dir: Jean-Jacques Beineix

Director Jean-Jacques Beineix scored a bull’s-eye internationally at arthouse box offices with his debut film, a deftly constructed soufflé of a suspense thriller with a comic, tongue-in-cheek tone. Postman and opera fanatic Jules (Frederic Andrei) surreptitiously records his idol, diva Cynthia (Wilhemenia Wiggins Fernandez), and is so overcome by her performance that he steals her costume from her dressing room, which causes a scandal. Later, while on his rounds, he encounters two thugs beating up a woman and is the unwitting recipient of a blackmail tape that the victim sneaks into his letter bag. Soon the chase is on, with not only the hoods (including Dominic Pinon) but also Taiwanese music bootleggers hoping to steal his opera cassette. Before things come to a head, Jules befriends singer Cynthia and is aided in his escape from danger by a teenage Vietnamese street girl and a sophisticated mystery man (Richard Bohringer). "…One of the best thrillers of recent years but, more than that, it is a brilliant film, a visual extravaganza that announces the considerable gifts of its young director, Jean-Jacques Beineix…Filled with so many small character touches, so many perfectly observed intimacies, so many visual inventions, from the sly to the grand, that the thriller plot is just a bonus… Pauline Kael has compared Beineix to Orson Welles and, as Welles so often did, he has made a movie that is a feast to look at, regardless of its subject." – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


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