When Jules (Frederic Andrei), a young Parisian postman obsessed with classical music, hears superstar singer Cynthia Hawkins performing the opera La Wally, he secretly records her singing on tape. However things take a strange turn when a second audio cassette with a recorded testimony that incriminates a bent police chief is swapped for Jules’ bootleg recording. Now the mob is after our young protagonist, who flees to a beautiful safe house near Fountain Bleau with his new musician friend.
Made with a low budget and unknown cast, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s debut, Diva, is a cornerstone of the filmmaker’s cinema du look style, placing aesthetics at the forefront of his process to create a stylish, romantic thriller that fizzes with new wave seduction. Watch for that classic moped chase scene through the Paris metro.
Diva is streaming on Mubi.
Diva by Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1981
Contrary to its name, this is a stone-cold classic of American cinema and one of the finest comedies ever made. Directed, produced and co-written by a true custodian of Classic Hollywood in Billy Wilder, the film follows two musicians who disguise themselves as women in order to join an all-female band tour to Miami and escape the Chicago gangsters whom they witnessed committing a crime.
Played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon, the train they are travelling on with the rest of the band has barely left the station before both men lay eyes on Sugar, the band’s vocalist and ukulele player who is memorably played by Marilyn Monroe. Once in Miami, Joe and Jerry compete for her affection while maintaining their disguises as Josephine and Daphne, batting away the unwanted advances of other men while trying to seduce the wide-eyed Sugar. Much hilarity ensues, as well as Monroe’s best on-screen performance and a slew of timeless one-liners.
Some Like It Hot is streaming on Apple TV.
Some Like It Hot by Billy Wilder, 1959
In lush mountainous jungles somewhere in South America, a small guerrilla unit of teenage bandits live out a semi-feral existence. On the peripheries of some nameless conflict, the group are tasked with looking after an American hostage, but high above the clouds with no adult supervision the already-precarious ties to reality come undone in the heat of the jungle.
With a sound track from Mica Levi and evocative visuals throughout courtesy of cinematographer Jasper Wolf, the film moves with a transcendent beauty that occasionally slips into a full-blown psychedelic nightmare, combining the treachery of Lord of the Flies with the jungle-madness of Apocalypse Now.
Monos is streaming on Apple TV.
Monos by Alejandro Landes, 2019