One of the most iconic French offerings of the eighties, Jean Jacques Beineix’s Betty Blue (1986) not only filled cinemas and earned itself BAFTA and Oscar attention, but its César Award-winning poster found itself adorning the bedroom walls of those mesmerised by the astounding central performance of Béatrice Dalle. Reissued on Blu-ray in a deluxe box set, this stunning transfer will delight revisiting fans as well as a whole new league of admirers. Betty (Dalle) and Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) have been dating for a week and they live in a shack on the beach, with the latter working as a handyman 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. Fuelled by her love for Zorg, Betty takes it upon herself to type up a novel he 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. Her unpredictable nature and devotion to Zorg thusly sees Betty become ever more violent and self-destructive.
Beineix directs Betty Blue with a dreamlike flair, concentrating heavily on the passion between the lovers. The opening scene, shocking at the time of its original release, now appears tame when compared to 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. This now feels non-gratuitous, just honest, as Beineix demonstrates filmmaking with a real beating heart at its 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.
Elsewhere, 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. However, the film undoubtedly belongs to Dalle. 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 its forms – whether it be the 121-minute theatrical version or the 185-minute director’s cut – takes a bad situation and makes it true-blue and beautiful.