Betty Blue

by Sam Cohen
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Dec 2, 2019
Betty Blue

When "Betty Blue" opens, we see the two lovelorn main characters in a bout of passionate lovemaking. The sexuality imbued in the sequence is fragile and never pornographic, as director Jean-Jacques Beineix holds the shot still and slowly zooms in on their bodies in embrace, clutching onto something that they know may be impermanent. That impermanence is only one of the many things that makes the 1986 French drama so heartbreaking, as it depicts a relationship that was doomed to fail from the beginning because of the naivete of love. What may seem like a genuine romantic epic only becomes more depressing as the three-hour runtime rambles on. Now available on Blu-ray with a stunning new digital restoration, this tender film can be found for what it really is: A sojourn in a paradise of the mind's own making.

Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is an aspiring writer living out his days in a seaside resort on Gruissan on France's Mediterranean coast. He meets Betty (Béatrice Dalle in her breakout role), a volatile and impulsive young woman, and falls immediately in love. Zorg's brand of peace and love is threatened when Betty starts lashing out physically and emotionally at those who doubt her boyfriend's artistic merit, resulting in the couple having to move from location to location to evade the consequences of Betty's actions. Ultimately, Zorg is forced to decide between his own ambitions and his love for Betty.

"Betty Blue" is breathlessly realized by Beineix and his director of photography, Jean-François Robin. Part of the "cinema du look" movement in the late '80s that included projects from other French directors like Luc Besson and Leos Carax, this film is transfixed on the power of imagery to carry a narrative. Once lambasted for not having enough story to sustain three hours, and depicting sexuality in a way that wasn't progressive for the time, it's clear to this writer that Beineix is swept up in the idea of love and is very conscious of the implications of Betty's character. At her core she's a young woman suffering from a kind of psychological pain that Zorg can't comprehend, so he tries to subdue her worst intentions. She's not the muse or perfect object of affection that other films made during the movement so adored.

Aside from the equally breathless digital restoration of the film that properly shows off Beineix's incredible use of vibrant color, this new collector's edition Blu-ray from Criterion comes filled with special features any French cinema fan is bound to love. In specificity, there's an hour-long documentary with Beineix, Dalle, Anglade, Robin and associate producer Claudie Ossard that gives unparalleled depth to the dramatic motivations behind the film and the repercussions of its original reception. I highly recommend this release, as it showcases a gem that shouldn't be lost to time. Other special features include:

• "Making of "Betty Blue" - a short video featuring Beineix and author Philippe Djian
• "Le Chien de Monsieur Michel" - a short film by Beineix from 1977
• French television interview from 1986 with Beineix and Dalle
• Dalle screen test
• Booklet with essay by critic Chelsea-Phillips Carr

"Betty Blue"

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