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THE FAT LADY SINGS

There are few examples of Opera being used in film, either as theme or subtext. Being an opera lover myself (one of the few gay stereotypes I subscribe to), I am titillated when divas and arias are used to drive the cinematic narrative. Although not music to everyone's ears, these gems help illustrate why opera is still around, and captivates so many, after thousands of years.

- Diva (1981)--Jules, a young postman on a motorbike, gets ensnarled in a web of intrigue as a murdered woman slips an audiotape of super secrets into his bag. Some crazy Frenchies chase the young man through the streets of oh-so-gay '80s Paris. Meanwhile, Jules is obsessed with a hot opera diva who refuses to be recorded, making secret tapes of her performances. Herein lies the twist, as he thinks the goons want his secret concert tapesÉ Oh those wacky French!

- Aria (1987)--10 takes on classic opera arias, by 10 of the most influential "outsider" (albeit all male) directors of our time. Although it mostly reads like a pop opera music video compilation, it does have striking bits. The late Derek Jarman's simple and moving set piece to "Depuis le Jour" illustrates an old woman's look back at her life. Also present are slices from Robert Altman, Julien Temple, Bruce Beresford, and Ken Russell, one of the best cult movie directors of the last half-century.

- Carmen Jones (1954)--Shit-hot diva Dorothy Dandridge, the Halle Berry of the '50s, plays Bizet's titular character in this all African-American retelling of the classic opera, Carmen, complete with modernized lyrics and set in an army camp. Dandridge tears it up as the fiery Jones, who's all about stealing the heart of Joe, played by Harry Belafonte. Joe is previously engaged, but Carmen cannot be deterred from her goal. An all black musical produced in the early '50s, as well as being a hit? The film stands apart as a classic of pre-civil rights era African-American cinema. BRIAN BRAIT

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