Director Jean-Jacques Beineix launched the Cinema Du Look movement with this stylish cult thriller that remains as innovative today as when it premiered in 1981. Jules (FREDERIC ANDREI), a young postal carrier, illegally tapes a concert of a reclusive opera singer (American soprano WILHELMENA WIGGINS FERNANDEZ). Jules' attempts to woo the diva are interrupted when Taiwanese bootleggers come after the recording. His problems become worse when a prostitute slips another tape, one that incriminates a police chief, into his bag. Jules must escape the police chief, the cop's henchmen and the bootleggers to keep both precious tapes safe - and to stay alive. Featuring critically acclaimed cinematography and a celebrated chase through the Paris Metro, DIVA earned Cesar Awards for Best Music, Best Cinematography and Best Directorial Debut.
The release of Diva on the new Meridian imprint comes with a "director approved" transfer of the 1981 arthouse hit. Considering the somewhat grainy quality of the image (and a barely-perceptible amount of horizontal "stretching" to fit the 16x9 shape, which crops out a sliver of visual information from previous DVD releases), this will have to stand as Beineix's vision of the movie, at least for now. The sound is monaural, as was the original release, so the synth-heavy score by Vladimir Cosma, as influential in its was as Flashdance, sounds a bit tinny on modern machines. The supporting features are extensive: the notoriously cranky Beineix contributes about 20 minutes' worth of scene-specific commentary (his voice audible but dubbed into English) for some of the film, and he sits down for another 20-minute, two-part video interview, which is in English. All the interviews, which vary between English-language and French-dubbed-into-English, can be played in a row, following an annoying 6-minute "postmodern" introduction in which the interviewers tell you what you're about to see. Cosma speaks for 11 minutes about the music, cinematographer Philippe Rousselot for 6 minutes, and designer Hilton McConnico for 7 minutes. The actors are heard from: Dominique Pinon and Anny Romand speak together, Frederic Andrei and Richard Bohringer are interviewed separately (the latter describes Beineix as a "sweet schizophrenic"). Surprisingly, the best anecdotes come from a 7-minute talk with casting director Dominique Besnehard, who recalls the worrisome gap in opera star Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez's front teeth. --Robert Horton