Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1986)

In French, Betty Blue's title is 37°2 le matin, which roughly translates to "37.2 Degrees in the Morning," a far better title than it got for its American release. 37.2° C is the body temperature of a pregnant woman first thing in the morning; when I learned this, after watching the entire movie, it was really a really touching and beautiful cherry on this depressing sundae.

The film opens with Betty (Beatrice Dalle) and Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) making love; they met three days before, and are in total lust at Zorg's shanty, where he serves as his community's handyman in exchange for his rent. She shows up once during the day with all her bags, and Zorg brings her in. Within days, she's dumped a bucket of paint on his boss' car and set his house on fire, and they leave for a friend's place. This is the beginning of an epic love affair that isn't particularly pretty, but is incredibly passionate and, well, French.

Dalle is absolutely radiant as Betty. Her first acting job, she was involved with director Beineix, and his love for her shows through the camera (although, aren't films with the director's lover in it often the best ones?). She is incredibly beautiful and tough, but there's a side to her that's damaged and broken. As time goes on, that side becomes less vulnerable and more dangerous, and the last hour of the film is spent watching Betty's mental breakdown. It's heartbreaking, as Zorg tries to save her. He is absolutely convinced that he can save her, and even attacks a doctor who says they can help her with medications and electro-shock. Betty is possibly a schizophrenic, more likely a bipolar with incredibly high highs and low lows. Dalle almost hypnotizes the viewer in the beginning with her beauty and raw sexuality, and lulls you into a sense of security about she and Zorg until it is too late.

The photography is beautiful; as I said, Beineix' camera really loves Dalle. The movie, at almost three hours long, drags for the first half. In fact, if you just watched the beginning, you'd have no idea of the emotional depth the movie achieves at the end. But as much as I think the film could have been cut by about half an hour, I also see why it was made this way, and appreciate the mundanity of this ridiculous love affair leading up to their ultimate tragedy. If you have patience, both for the length of the film and for a movie revolving around a not-always-likeable crazy French girl, Betty Blue is something I can't recommend enough.


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