videocam Betty Blue

reviewed by Richard Luck

Published in Issue No. 18 ~ November, 1998

“Two young people struggle with life, each other and themselves in this striking French drama laced with offbeat humor and eroticism,” says the dust-jacket of this video. That is a bit like saying An Affair To Remember was about two people who kinda liked each other.

Directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix (Diva and Moon in the Gutter), Betty Blue is a tour-de-force of unequaled quality. The opening scene alone tell you that this is not going to be a merry-go-round ride. Hold onto your seats. Life is seldom as intense as what these two experience.

When the movie opens, Betty (Beatrice Dalle) and Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) have known each other for only a week, yet they are impassioned lovers. Zorg is Jack-of-all-trades, working as a repairman at a tract of seaside bungalows. He’s a quiet man, one who spends the majority of his time within his own head. We know absolutely nothing about Betty – but we quickly learn that she’s an impulsive, volatile creature, given to torrents of violent temper.

It is during one such fit that Betty discovers Zorg has written a novel. She immediately sits down to read this “masterpiece,” not sleeping for several days. Her entire view of her lover changes at this moment. She now idolizes him, thinking his work at the bungalows beneath his talents, and demands that he start living a life worthy of an artist.

Zorg is rather reticent. To him, life is as it should be. Why upset the status-quo? But, when Betty costs him his job, he agrees to follow her to Paris, where they live with Betty’s friend, Lisa (Consuelo de Haviland), and meet Eddy (Gerard Darmon), a strange but likable restaurant owner. With Betty, life has meaning for Zorg. With Betty, however, the beginning of the end has just begun. She grows increasingly broodish, swinging into irrational outbursts when Zorg’s book is rejected by a respected publisher, escatic euphoria when she thinks she might be pregnant with Zorg’s child, then deep despair when she realizes she’s unable to become pregnant.

Throughout all of this, Zorg is calm, supportive, and does a respectable job of keeping Betty’s seams sewn together. But in the back of his mind he knows she’s headed towards a crescendo the likes of which even he is ill-prepared to handle. There is a peppering of dark humor sprinkled in: a neighbor’s wife who complains of being sexually “abandoned” by her husband; the death and subsequent funeral of Eddy’s mother; Zorg and Betty’s plans for a bright future together. Just as true happiness seems to be beckoning, Betty’s odd inner torment explodes with tragic consequences, leading to an incredibly powerful cinematic climax.

Based upon the novel 37° 2 In The Morning by Phillippe Dijan.

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Richard Luck is the Founder and Technical Director for Pif Magazine.