Recommended by Simon MacDonald (Writer/director/performer/lecturer at Highlands College)

  • DIVA
  • FRANCE: 1981
  • Cert: 15 / 1 hour 57 minutes
  • Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix

I’m a little disappointed to note that this film has only just recently been hailed as a favourite of Lindesay Irvine in the Guardian because I’ve loved it for a long time too! It’s not going to change my choice though. ‘Diva’ is a bizarre hybrid of film styles and genres that takes in action/adventure, film noir, and crazy, dark humour. It also has the most amazing soundtrack.

The film tells the story of a young opera fan – Jules – and his obsession with a singer who has never made a recording and, indeed, never heard her own singing. He secretly tapes her performance – a standout Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez plays the titular role – and his recording gets mixed up with another tape that incriminates a police chief in a scandal who is working with the mob. Are you keeping up? Jules quickly becomes the target of gangsters, and he must find a way to get himself out of the situation alive.

I love it particularly because it still seems so absurd and has a completely bonkers chase scene with mopeds in it. The much-missed film critic Roger Ebert describes it as “a thriller that is more about how it looks than what happens in it. Here is an exhilarating film made for no better purpose than to surprise and fascinate.” I couldn’t agree more. It still does all those things for me. Beneix went on to make the cult-classic ‘Betty Blue’ in 1986 which disturbed me so much on its release that I had done my level best to forget all about it. Until now. Oh dear.