Thursday, October 1, 2009

Betty Blue and the Pussy Problem

One of my favorite films of all time (with one of the truly greatest scores) is Betty Blue.

Could it have been directed by a woman?

Yes, of course. A woman could have directed it. Would it have been any good?

Let's just say it would have lacked a certain truth.

from my imdb review:

If you've ever owned a cat, you'll know that they like to sleep a lot, eat a lot, and brush up against your ankles when they're hungry. They're never in a hurry to please you, they're vain, and they want you dead once they've licked their bowl clean. It's all predictable behavior.

You know what to expect. 99% of the time.

But, the unpredictable 1% will come as no shock to a cat person. For some crazy reason, usually at night, cats suddenly go nuts and dash around the house like they're chasing invisible, flying rodents. They're totally out of control. They'll scratch you if you get in their way and they'll snarl at you like they're ready to rip your throat out.
Then, just as suddenly, they'll regress to their former personalities and settle by the fire.

Why they go nuts, why that crazy cat gene suddenly flares up, is unknown. Even they don't know, I'm sure. They don't even remember going nuts once it's over. They behave like nothing ever happened as they slink sheepishly back into the living room and return to to their former mild-mannered selves.

Women carry the crazy cat gene, too, and only a fella who's never lived with one would wonder what the hell I'm talking about.

Jean-Jacques Beineix's "Betty Blue" is about such a woman, only her cat gene is starting to ruin her life and the lives of those around her. It''s horrible to watch the gorgeous, luscious-lipped Beatrice Dalle come apart at the seams and plunge into madness, but it's the stuff of a great movie, and it's why the film is so engaging.

As with all gorgeous women, there's a guy out there who's sick and tired of her shit, and that guy in "Betty Blue" is Zorg (Jean-Hughes Anglade), a magnificent actor who also had a pivotal role in Roger Avery's puerile "Killing Zoe" and luc Besson's excellent La Femme Nikita. Anglade loves Betty so much that he's willing to put up with her mood swings, but, ultimately, he loses her just before she totally loses her own mind.

The film is beautiful. The first forty-five minutes, where Zorg and Betty hook up and paint beach houses, is very French, very cinematic, and very erotic. The photography is stunning and the emotions are real. Once Betty's madness begins to impact on the relationship, we experience every tragic step in her decline.

Director Beineix never made a better film than "Betty Blue". "Rosaline and the Lions", though flawed, had an infectious energy, but "Moon in the Gutter" caved in under the weight of its own melancholy and hyper-stylization.

The reason "Betty Blue" works is because it is about a fascinating character we care about. It doesn't help us to understand women any better, but it reminds every guy who's confronted the cat that he is not alone.

2 comments:

  1. I can't relate to the "crazy cat" nonsense- I sleep like a baby once my head hits the pillow- but I do love BETTY BLUE. This film is probably in my top ten.

    The early scenes of the lovers alone at the waterside cottage......

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  2. Anon -- you can't relate? Perhaps you're female yourself. Who knows?!

    Something about waterside cottages...I've known a few.

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