Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Review: Betty Blue (1986)

Arguably the most iconic French film of the eighties, Betty Blue (1986) not only filled cinemas and earned itself BAFTA and Oscar nominations, but it’s Cesar award-winning poster found itself on bedroom walls of people all over the world who had been mesmerised by the astounding central performance of Beatrice Dalle. Reissued on Blu-ray in a deluxe box-set, this stunning transfer is bound to delight revisiting fans and capture a whole new league of admirers.

Betty (Dalle) and Zorg (Anglade) have been dating for a week and they live in a shack on the beach. He works as a handy-man who does odd jobs to pay the bills. Zorg's boss asks him to paint the hundreds of shacks that populate the beach—a fact that he keeps from Betty who thinks they only have to do one. She takes on the project with enthusiasm but when she discovers the truth Betty attacks Zorg’s boss, wrecks the apartment and sets it alight. The lovers move in to Betty's friend's house and Zorg does maintenance in lieu of rent. Fueled by her love for Zorg, Betty takes it upon herself to type up a novel Zorg has written and attempts to get it published. Life in the city and a slew of rejection letters complicate their lives further.

Each incident sees Betty spiral further out of control and when pregnancy is added to the mix, circumstances take a turn for the worst. Betty's unpredictable nature and endless devotion to Zorg develop into bizarre obsession, that sees her becoming violent and self-destructive. The film tackles the complex theme of mental health and scenes alternate briskly between comic and tragic modes, successfully lightening the tone.

Director Jean-Jacques Beineix directs the film with a dreamlike flair, concentrating heavily on the passion between the lovers. The opening scene, shocking at the time of its original release, is now tame compared to cinema’s New French Extremism. At once the viewer is at the centre of Betty and Zorg’s relationship as the camera lingers on them during a lengthy and graphic sex scene. However, this now feels non-gratuitous, just honest as Beineix demonstrates filmmaking with a real beating heart at it’s centre. Each scene is filled with vivid colour and stunning pastel hues, accompanied by Gabriel Yared’s emotive and haunting score that sometimes fills the air and other times comes from a wandering saxophonist or Zorg’s nimble fingers.

 Jean-Hugues Anglade delivers the perfect balance between humour and heartache that culminates in an outstanding and powerful performance as Zorg. His relationship with Betty is magnificently realised due to a combination of a great director and a sizzling chemistry between the leads. Betty Blue though for all of its merits, truly belongs to Beatrice Dalle. This is her film. From the moment she steps onto the screen, Dalle becomes the embodiment of Phillipe Djan’s source material. Oozing sexuality, charm and tenacity, Dalle delivers the performance of her career as she dually demonstrates the affects of mental health empathetically and with utmost sensitivity. Betty Blue in either of it’s forms, whether it be the 121 minute theatrical version or the 185 minute Director’s cut, is a masterpiece that takes a bad situation and makes it true-blue and beautiful.

Betty Blue (Original Theatrical Version Blu-Ray) from Cinema Libre Studio on Vimeo.

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