For his first feature, Jean-Jacques Beineix borrowed the formal innovations of the French avant-garde—Godard's colors and conflicting tones, Rivette's screwball thriller plotting—for a work of unalloyed entertainment, which was such a sharp commercial idea it's a wonder no one had thought of it before. A young postal messenger who worships an American opera singer makes an illegal tape of one of her recitals; meanwhile, a dying prostitute drops a cassette of her tape-recorded confessions, which will help indict a drug ring, into his mail pouch. Beineix stays too close to the themes and emotions of the formula cult film—a morbid romanticism, a lingering cuteness—for this 1981 picture to take off into art, but any film with this much stylistic assurance is impossible to fully resist. With Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, Frederic Andrei, and Richard Bohringer. R, 123 min.

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