Mastodon Opera Related Movies You May Have Missed No 1: Diva (1981) - The Wagnerian

Opera Related Movies You May Have Missed No 1: Diva (1981)

Written By The Wagnerian on Saturday 4 May 2013 | 1:05:00 am

Our editor takes leave of Wagner for a moment to introduce, to those that may have missed it, the 1981 French classic "Diva"

I am often surprised how many people with an interest in opera have not seen Jean-Jacques Beineix's frankly stunning 1981 French film "Diva". One of the first movies to depart from the French "New Realism" school of film making, and like "Bladerunner" around the same time, going on to redefine the look of cinema - which it still does to some degree.

Not that it did not have some success outside of France, grossing as it did over $2.5 million in the USA alone. And on a budget of $1.6 million. Nevertheless, it remains a to little seen piece of cinema history and has found itself confined to "cult status". Although, I have always suspected it may have contributed to the "renaissance" of opera in the popular imagination that took place in the 80's

At its release in the USA Roger Ebert was to say:

"The movie is 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. In a way, it doesn't really matter what this movie is about; 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. Here is a director taking audacious chances, doing wild and unpredictable things with his camera and actors, just to celebrate moviemaking".

The story, on the surface a thriller, revolves around a young postman Jules, who  is obsessed with Cynthia Hawkins, a celebrated opera singer who has never allowed her performances to be recorded. It opens with Jules attending her performance which he secretly records .

However, he also unknowingly comes into possession of another tape, the testimony of a prostitute who drops the tape into his bag before she is murdered. This recording reveals that a high ranking policemen named Saporta is actually a crime syndicate boss.

The rest of the movie revolves around Jules being chased both by  Saporta 's gang  and an group of gangsters seeking the rare Hawkins tape.

However, this "hymn" to opera is a movie better seen than discussed and I suggest any interested reader views the "clips" below before going out and buying a copy.