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DVD SAVANT

Betty Blue
Unrated Director's Cut


Betty Blue
Columbia TriStar
1986 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 120 185 min. / 372 le matin / Street Date October 12, 2004 / 24.96
Starring Jean-Hugues Anglade, Béatrice Dalle, Gérard Darmon, Consuelo De Haviland
Cinematography Jean-Francois Robin
Production Designer Carlos Conti
Film Editor Marie-Aimée Debril, Monique Prim
Original Music Gabriel Yared
Written by Jean-Jacques Beineix from a novel by Philippe Djian
Produced by Jean-Jacques Beineix, Claudie Ossard
Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

This beautifully-photographed softcore love story must have seemed long at its original two-hour release length, but although the extra hour of material broadens the film, it still plays like an overwrought excuse for steamy sex scenes. The two attractive leads are fully-frontal nude on camera for at least thirty minutes, and the sex contact is real even if the copulating is simulated ... I stress the "if." Otherwise it's a standard failed relationship film with two or three extremely awkward passages.

Synopsis:

Beachfront handyman Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is happy living in a shack with his extremely sex-minded girlfriend Betty (Béatrice Dalle), but she's a capricious and unstable nut just as likely to fly into a rage as give him a kiss. After outraging Zorg's boss, Betty sets the shack ablaze, forcing the two of them to flee to Paris and the house of Betty's friend Lisa (Consuelo De Haviland). When Lisa finds a wildly funny boyfriend of her own, restaurant owner Eddy (Gérard Darmon), the foursome has a fun time partying, even though Betty's behavior continues to be a problem. She types up the manuscript of Zorg's novel and distributes it to publishers, whose negative responses make her even more volatile. When Eddy's mother dies, Zorg and Betty take over her country piano store. But no calm comes to the relationship. Betty shows signs of dementia when her hoped-for pregnancy turns out to be a false alarm; Zorg robs a bank for money to make her happy but it's already too late.

Betty Blue starts out almost as a lark, a dreamy idyll of youth and sex. Zorg has found the girl of his dreams, a sexy she-cat who seemingly wants to do little more than jump in the sack 24-7. But there's a hitch; Betty is impossible to live with and quickly ruins their simple beach situation through unpredictably hostile behavior like hurling a bucket of house paint onto the car of Zorg's boss.

Betty loves Zorg in her own way, even if she expresses that dedication by destroying his possessions and making him into a fugitive. Enamored of the idea that he's a writer, she types his manuscript and sends it off expecting a miracle sale in the return mail. When that doesn't happen Betty goes from delightfully appealing to dangerously violent. She pushes a man off a stairway, slashes a publisher on the face, and later stabs a restaurant patron with a fork. Zorg is philosophical about it all: "Betty's okay. She just has problems when things don't turn out the way she wants. She lives in a different world." At one point he absently chalks her erratic behavior up to menstrual hysteria.

But it's really mental illness, and Betty goes off the deep end during a long process that lets our ever-loving couple get starkers at a minimum of once a reel. In the tradition of l'amour fou, they remain committed to one another beyond normal reason, but Betty Blue fumbles its final hour with an out-of-left-field armored car robbery. Zorg dresses up as a woman, making nonsense of the realism of what's come before. The loot doesn't shake Betty from her increasing catatonia, but she never bugged him for a lot of money in the first place so why he thought it would help is a mystery. The ending is downbeat but daring, marred only by the expected scene where Zorg sits down to write his next novel, which (surprise) is this very same story of Betty Blue ...

The two leads are very convincing in the sweaty and loud lovemaking scenes, and handle the dramatics well enough. Director Beineix is good at everything except his pacing and that unwelcome bank robbery scene. I never saw the short version, but it looks as though some of the new material shows Zorg covering up for Betty's crimes with the local constable, and dealing with his eccentric neighbors.


Columbia TriStar's Betty Blue looks lovely, with great detail in the, uh, flesh tones. The enhanced image has beautiful color and the track highlights Gabriel Yared's sparse, airy score. There aren't any extras.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Betty Blue rates:
Movie: Good - (raise that several notches for voyeurs)
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: October 13, 2004





DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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