Picks and Pans Review: Diva

updated 02/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

It's tempting to call this just another French cops-and-robbers film. But it's a tour de force that puts its director, Jean-Jacques Beineix, in the front ranks of French moviemakers with his first feature. The plot is intriguing, if sometimes confusing: An 18-year-old Paris mailman, played with perfect self-effacement by Frederic Andrei, loves opera. His fascination is an American diva who won't record her voice for fear of diluting her art. One night the young mailman secretly tapes her performance, and when two Taiwanese record pirates find out, the chase is on. That's only the beginning. Another tape accidentally dropped in his mail pouch implicates a high-ranking police inspector in a drug-and-prostitution ring. When the crooked cop finds out that this tape exists, he too sets out after the mailman. Director Beineix—and his cameraman, Philippe Rousselot—shows an uncommon touch. The scenes are like paintings: a dangerous chase through the subways of Paris, an abandoned lighthouse at dawn. As the diva, Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez is dazzling, a portrait of arrogance and beauty. But this is a director's movie, and Beineix is superb. (In French with English subtitles) (Not rated)

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