Betty Blue Movie Review
As Betty, Béatrice Dalle makes her screen debut, taking on the role of a young and brazen twentysomething that's clearly -- painfully -- stricken with some mental illness and probably more than one. As we meet her, she's visiting her new boyfriend Zorg (excellent name), played by Jean-Hugues Anglade, and much of their three hours on camera is filled with various forms of foreplay, sex, and afterplay, with Betty spending the intervening hours in various stages of undress.
It isn't until Betty has exhibited a number of cases of strange behavior that we start to get a glimpse at just how nuts she really is. When she burns down Betty and Zorg's beach shack it seems almost quaint, but soon enough she's trashing rooms, stealing cars, and stabbing a restaurant patron with a fork. Zorg isn't terribly fazed (the sex must be fantastic); he seems like the only person in the world who really understands the poor girl. But ultimately it's hard to see how he'll cope with her mania, as Betty's actions get more and more unforgivable.
Developing slowly, we ultimately realize that the film isn't really about Betty but rather about Zorg. It is at it's most interesting, actually, when Betty isn't on camera. Not only do we get a glimpse of the things Zorg must do to keep Betty fed and (barely) clothed, we see his depth of emotion and start to feel his terror about what Betty might actually do when he's not around.
The film has long existed in a two hour version, which is what most people think of as Betty Blue and which (I'm told) focuses far less on Zorg. (The French title is 37°2 le matin, or literally 37.2 Degrees in the Morning (that's about body temperature).) This director's cut, finally available on DVD, may not answer many questions about what mental illness is, but it does cast an enchanting spell over its audience which allows it to tolerate 185 minutes of often repetitious filmmaking. Jean-Jacques Beineix's villagescapes and countryside vistas are hard to resist, and the dichotomy of a stone cold looney prancing around them only makes the tableau more curiously complete.