Betty Blue (UK - BD RB)
Marcus meets a passionate French girl and she wants him to keep writing...
Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade) has a home on the beach, living a pretty minimal lifestyle but then he meets) the hot headed, passionate, erratic and fun loving Betty (Béatrice Dalle) Zorg’s life begins on a journey that will change him forever.
Betty Blue is almost a film of legend. Released in 1986 it quickly became known for its erotic content and its alluring blue cover with a the hot French girl calling you in became an image that was quickly identified as that “sexy film”. This notoriety never really passed and even through the 90s, this was still an art house title that was known primarily for Béatrice Dalle’s sexy goings on rather than the story itself.
Re-visting the film, nearing its 30 year anniversary (wow, where does the time go?) other than the full frontal nudity, which is still pretty unheard of in mainstream film, Betty Blue is quite tame on the sex front really. The current movie hype that explodes around sex in films when it’s at its most extreme nowadays. Perversions, fantasies and unheard of situations are the erotic films that get the most chatter nowadays, and Betty Blue is far from that sort of thing, meaning its erotic legacy has sort of faded. This isn't a bad thing.
This film is more about love. The sex scenes are between two characters that are clearly in love. They’re young, full of life and living life an adventure at a time. Betty is clearly the catalyst in all this, and of course there’s more than a hint that the couple are very sexually driven but really beyond the opening relatively personal and semi graphic feeling sex scene, I wouldn’t even go as far as to call this one an erotic drama. Betty Blue is simply a well structured drama that happens to have the odd bit of nudity in it rather than the “erotic classic” it’s been labelled with.
Betty is extremely likable. Sort of in the way young love in most films tells us that sassy girls are adorable. She’s fun, lively, wears her heart on her sleeve and looks fantastic doing it. Sure, she’s also very annoying and her passion for all things Zorg is both her most adorable trait and her most infuriated characteristic. Those of you that know how the film ends, can appreciate it this all part of the path we’re on and this depiction of a passionate young girl is a great way of preparing us for where this story is leading.
The laid back approach to the story fits the lead character of Zorg wonderfully. He bounces from event to event (mostly with Betty leading) with a wide eyed enthusiasm that makes him really likable. Things go wrong and he just goes with it. Betty causes a scene and he remains loyal all while sorting out the situations in fair and controlled ways. Zorg is pretty much the best boyfriend in the world because he puts up with a lot but again when the last act of this film rolls around your heart is broken because of it.
I hadn’t seen Betty Blue in years and I think I was too young to appreciate the very human story being told here in my youth. This light, steadily paced film about love, and romance and disappointment at times builds to one hell of a dark turn and when it comes it’s crushing really. The mental health elements of this film are handled with such realism. There’s no sense its coming but when it does it makes total sense and is depicted in ways that show the struggle it must inflict on people’s lives.
Betty Blue has two cuts and the longest of the two is just over three hours. As I mentioned before the pace of this film is steady but it makes you feel comfortable being around the characters in it. Zorg, Betty and the friends they meet are all great, the mad encounters with the wilder characters that come about throughout the film are crazy but wonderfully European and the small moments between the central couple are heart warming, a little bit crazy and indeed devastating but it all adds up to a great experience that makes this story of love feel complete and honest in ways a lot of films fail to really grasp.
The gorgeously warm and sunlit image starts strong ‘and never really lets up. Skin (and there’s plenty of it) glows in the warm lighting and the image is mostly fresh, clean and full of summery joy.
Textures in things such as carpet and clothing is very good, you can see every bobble and imperfection. It’s not really the same deal for skin textures, largely down to the strong lighting but everything feels perfectly natural and gives everyone that beautiful glow that a warm climates tends to do. Unlike many a modern film you can tell the weather and temperature, overcast days look as they do with grey in the sky and rain in the wind and hot days look like you just want to be on the beach with them. It’s all very well captured within the visuals and it’s refreshing to see such a naturally presented image. The use of colour here is quite striking. The pink and blue painted house of the beach houses all leap of the screen in different ways given the lighting sources and you can even see the strokes of thinner paint layers when it comes to the walls of the houses.
Leaving the beach and heading to the city the greys creep in with Betty herself begins as the only real colourful element, with her range of brightly coloured clothes but even with that said the couple's apartment has those authentic French colours and furnishings that look really good in the frame. Skin textures fair much better in this reduced light and close ups can look very good. The film’s black levels are pretty good, but their lack of depth sometimes gives the image a softer look at time. This is obviously a film from the 80s and this in itself holds back certain element of the HD presentation but overall I found this one a pleasant all rounder with a fair few very well handled improvements.
The audio track is quite central and the dialogue and music all seems to come from the same place, that being the centre speaker. There a slight sense of spread when someone is talking off camera but it’s not the most dynamic of tracks.
There's a bit of ambience in certain scenes, chirping birds or passers by bring the world of Betty Blue to life a little bit but again this is very little and the only difference between interior and exterior is the slightly airier sound to dialogue when characters are outside.
The sax elements score sounds full and layered with either a subtle underpinning or a strong driving mood setter. It’s not the best score I’ve ever heard for the most part but the more delicate piano pieces sound great and the score in general fits the mood of the film well and sounds crisp and effective.
The extras, that are housed on Disc 2 fatures 'Blue Notes and Bungalows - The Making of Betty Blue' (61 mins) which is led by director Jean-Jacques Beineix, is an honest, thoughtful and detailed account of the films production. A Crooked producer, the construction of Betty as a character and what she represents and of course the cast and crew backing him up with thier side of the story. It;s a great documentary and really compliments the film well.
Featured in the making but available in separately is also the 'Beatrice Dalle Screen Tests' (04:13). It;s easy to see why they cast this young acturess, even in the screen test she's full of life and puts a smile on your face.
Betty Blue is a film I've liked in the past but this viewing really struck a cord with me more than previous watches. The story of this young couple felt much stronger to me, almost like it was a fairy tale of love, rather than a contemporary view of it and it's devastating ending really hit home this time too. This is a great film and I won't leave it so long to return next time.
As for the two disc edition Blu-ray - the video presentation is full of improvements and the natural look of the film looks great throughout. The audio doesn't fare as well but there's nothing technically wrong with it, it's just a minimal make over really. As for the extras, fans of the fiom should really enjoy what's on offer here.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 25th November 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM Stereo 2.0 French
Extras: Making of, Screen Test
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jean-Jacques Beineix
Cast: Jean-Hugues Anglade, Béatrice Dalle, Vincent Lindon, Dominique Pinon
Genre: Drama and Romance
Length: 184 minutes
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