Friday, 18 February 2011

Diva delight

On Monday evening, the Ritzy in Brixton screens Jean-Jacques Beineix's debut feature Diva (1981). It's based on the first of a series of freewheeling books by Swiss author Daniel Odier, written under the pseudonym Delacorta, about a smooth criminal called Serge Gorodish who hooks up with an underage nymphette, Alba. Together, they help out a young, opera-obsessed postman who becomes entangled in a plot to secure a rare recording of a soprano, Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez in the film. Her delivery of an aria from opera La Wally is one of the film's highlights.

Rather like the upcoming, reverential adaptation of Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, Beineix's approach to this cartoonish paedo thriller is more in keeping with the Zenlike calm of lead Gorodish, played by Richard Bohringer, surely the man with the coolest voice in French cinema. Feted and excoriated in equal measure as a progenitor of the so-called 'cinéma du look', Beineix achieved his best work two years later with Gérard Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski in Moon in the Gutter, adapted from a work by David Goodis.

Beineix went on to direct Betty Blue in 1986, starring Béatrice Dalle and based on a novel by Philippe Djian, but appeared to lose the plot with, first, Roselyne et les lions (1989), starring a pneumatic Isabelle Pasco, and IP5 (1992), during the filming of which star Yves Montand died. The rigours of the shoot were blamed by some; whatever the truth, later scenes in which the corpse of his character is driven around the French countryside make for uncomfortable viewing.

UPDATE Diva also screens as a Future Cinema event at the ENO on 28 February.

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