Friday, 15 November 2013

Blu-Ray Review: Betty Blue

"She was a flower with psychic antennae, and a tinsel heart."
So begins the story of Betty Blue (Beatrice Dalle) and her relationship with Zorg(Jean-Hugues Anglade), a handyman and aspiring writer who finds his world turned upside down when Betty pitches camp in his beach shack: "the first time we've met in daylight." Zorg soon discovers his girlfriend possesses a fiery temper, with his boss on the receiving end. After a series of increasingly volatile encounters with the sweaty employer, Betty sets fire to their home and the pair move on to stay with a widowed friend of Betty's (Lisa, played by Consuela De Haviland). Before long, the trio become a quartet when Lisa's boyfriend Eddy (Gerard Damon) moves in and becomes firm friends with the house guests. So, relationships and bonds are formed, but Betty gradually sinks into severe depression, driven by rejections from publishers who turn down Zorg's book and by her inability to conceive.
In director Jean-Jaques Beineix's three hour director's cut, we can better appreciate Beatrice Dalle's iconic performance, and also her character whose decent into mental illness is slower and much harder to bear than in the two hour theatrical version which is also included in Second Sight's Blu-ray release. Indeed, it's a wonderful performance from the (then) unknown Dalle who exhibits a wild horse, impossible to tame nature which actually takes centre stage in the tale, rather than just being the story of someone who is driven mad by life. Zorg (a moving turn from Anglade) does his best to turn the tide, but comes to realise Betty's world exists "not in a meadow but in a gloomy pen."

Prior to Betty Blue, Beineix had delivered two shining stars in Diva and The Moon In The Gutter, but I strongly suspect that Betty Blue will turn out to be the one he's remembered for. Gabriel Yorel's score is instantly memorable, and stayed with me on a permanent basis after I caught the film opening week at the cinema in 1986, while Jean-Francois Robin's photography hits magisterial heights, realising some beautifully lit scenes. Betty Blue is one of those movies where all individual elements and components are exactly right, and the end result is a work that is of its time, and yet also timeless.

Second Sight's Blu-ray release offers exemplary picture quality that will delight fans of this film, with gorgeous candy colours, perfect skin tones and and high levels of detail which replicate the original theatrical release. An added bonus comes with Severin Films' hour-long documentary 'Blue Notes And Bungalows: The Making Of Betty Blue' which includes valuable contributions from Beineix, Dalle, Anglade, Robin, Yorel and first time producer Claudie Ossard who recalls the joy she felt at working with Beineix. We get to hear why Beineix chose to go with an unknown actress; exactly how responsive he was to input from cast and crew and his vision of Betty as an image of female rebellion. Oh, and do listen out for Dalle's great story about an encounter in a bookstore that she swears actually happened! This documentary is beautifully made, exhibiting a real love for the film and it's one you'll return to on future occasions. The remaining extra is 4 minutes of Beatrice Dalle's screentest. Here, she's completely unused to the cold, unblinking eye of a movie camera lens and is spontaneous and completely natural: exactly the kind of girl her director needed, and she comes over that way in the film, too. It's a delightful conclusion to Second Sight's presentation that bestows reverential treatment to one of cinema's great love stories, where the central characters discover the world was not made for them.

Betty Blue is released in the UK on 25th November and is region-free.

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