HOME   News   Reviews   Adv Search   Features   My DVD   About   Apps   Stats     Search:
  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 100.25)
  Languages
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Additional footage - over 1 hour of extra footage.
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Animated menus
  • Filmographies

Betty Blue - Directors Cut

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 177 mins . R . PAL

  Feature
Contract

There’s never been any shortage of fascinating filmmakers in France, a country whose film industry has always embraced both style and substance when it comes to putting stories – particularly personal, human stories – onto the screen. And while he has been disappointingly quiet in recent years, director Jean-Jacques Beineix has been responsible for a pair of the best-known and most highly regarded French films, ones which have fascinated and enthralled moviegoers around the world for many years. The first of these, 1981’s Diva, was a masterful thriller that influenced much that came after it; the second was 1996’s remarkable 37°2 Le Matin, better known to English-speaking audiences as Betty Blue.

Based on Philippe Djian’s novel, Betty Blue is perfect French cinema material, an observant, uninhibited and often very amusing story of an obsessive relationship and the consequences it has on the couple themselves as well as those around them. As the story opens, we meet Zorg (Jean-Hughes Anglade) and Betty (Béatrice Dalle) in the throes of extreme passion, having just met each other a week beforehand. Instantly and compulsively attracted to each other, they spend much of their time in bed together, particularly after Betty decides to move in to Zorg’s tiny bungalow at a decaying seaside resort. The distraction that Betty poses soon raises the ire of Zorg’s employer, who insists that if she is to stay in the house, she must help Zorg with a rather large task – to completely repaint the hundreds of bungalows at the resort. Zorg readily agrees – anything to ensure that Betty is allowed to stay with him – but Betty has discovered a book that Zorg has written and then forgotten, and when she finds out that their future involves nothing more than repetitive labour, she calmly burns down Zorg’s bungalow, and the couple take off on a journey that will take them all over France with each other. Betty tries to get Zorg’s book published, while Zorg tries to forget he ever wrote it at all, unshakable in his belief that he is not worth anything as a writer. But as Zorg continues to show complete disinterest in writing or any other kind of ambition – preferring instead just to be around Betty and to get supremely drunk on tequila with some newfound friends – Betty is slowly cracking up. Always wild and impulsive, she now starts to show signs of insanity – signs ignored by Zorg until it is too late.

The version of Betty Blue released in 1986 ran just on two hours, and while it gained plenty of acclaim it seemed somewhat rushed in its handling of Betty’s descent into insanity, causing many to wonder exactly what had triggered it. That question was answered in 1991 with the release of Beineix’s three-hour “Version Integrale” (literally translated, “complete version”) that massively expanded upon this element of the story to great effect. The longer version not only lets us get to know Betty and Zorg more closely, but also provides a substantially clearer picture both of Betty’s mental deterioration and of Zorg’s inability to accept it. It is, without a doubt, the definitive version of Betty Blue – there’s no point in watching the shorter version, and this has been reflected in the fact that the debut DVD release of the film is the complete “Version Integrale”.

While there’s a fascinating and riveting story on offer here – with first-class performances to match from all concerned – Betty Blue was also notorious at the time of its release for the amount of nudity and sex it contains. And make no mistake, there’s plenty of it here – those who consider themselves prudish about nudity in particular should be warned that there’s plenty of the full-frontal kind on display throughout the film (both female and male). But none of this is gratuitous – in fact, after the heady (and allegedly genuine) opening sex scene, most will simply take it all in as part of the story.

There’s another element to Betty Blue that many miss, too – its humour. While the main story is one of despair and decline, the mood for much of the running time is more one of celebration and wild abandon, and there are plenty of extremely funny moments along the way.

Photographed utterly beautifully throughout by Jean-François Robin (who has continued to work almost exclusively in Europe since, unlike many other European cinematographers who’ve gained international notice) and enhanced by a perfectly understated score by Gabriel Yared, Betty Blue is just as exciting and rewarding an experience - 15 years after it was made - as it was at the time of its release.

Special praise is due to Madman Cinema, who are releasing the local version of this disc - not only have they made Australia the only country to date outside of France to get this film on DVD, but they’ve managed to do so within a week of the corresponding French release.

  Video
Contract

“New 16:9 Anamorphic Transfer,” the back cover proudly proclaims, causing fans of this movie to salivate instantly, remembering the run-of-the-mill VHS versions that have appeared over the years. And all that salivating is completely justified – Betty Blue has never looked this good on home video before. Originally filmed at an aspect ratio of 1.66:1, obviously some cleverness was going to need to be done to produce a 16:9 video transfer; the solution decided upon by most companies to date with other 1.66:1 films has been either to offer a non-anamorphic transfer, or to crop the top and bottom of the image to deliver a 1.77:1 frame (this was done, for example, with the region 4 version of The Truman Show). For Betty Blue, though, the full 1.66:1 frame is preserved by “pillarboxing” the image – in other words, you’ll very possibly see black bars on each side of the image (depending on how enthusiastically your display overscans). If you’re watching on a 4:3 display, you’ll also see black bars at the top and bottom of the image (called “windowboxing”). While it may surprise or alarm some people to see a film presented this way on video, this method ensures that we see the entire intended film frame AND get all the benefits of 16:9 enhancement at the same time.

Now 15 years old and shot on a modest budget, Betty Blue does suffer somewhat from film grain at times, and while good, the telecine transfer here is not quite up to the current state of the art. Nevertheless, Beineix’s innovative and vital use of rich colour and intense shadow has never looked as good as it does here – compared to previous releases of the film on home video this new transfer is stunning, and the film source used for it is almost spotlessly clean.

Those watching on interlaced displays – in other words, most of us – will notice the occasional appearance of very noticeable “shimmering” artefacts on detailed objects, particularly during chapter 8 – however, these artefacts do not appear on a progressive display. A bit too much edge enhancement may have been applied during the telecine transfer, too, though bear in mind that this movie was shot in an intentionally contrast-heavy style, with much of the “hard” look also intentional.

The layer change occurs just after the halfway point of the movie (at 100:25) and is extremely well placed, causing minimal disruption to the natural flow of the film.

  Audio
Contract

While stated on the back cover as being in “Dolby Stereo”, the soundtrack for Betty Blue was originally mixed in mono and has always been presented that way. And as expected, it’s mono on this DVD as well (though encoded as a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio stream). Dialogue, music and effects are crisp and clear throughout, and while obviously not in any way a “show-off” soundtrack, it does a wonderful job at capturing the essential nature of this largely dialogue-based movie. The audio here sounds as though it was taken from an optical soundtrack of a release print, and the keen-eared will hear the expected quiet “crackle” of that format as well as the telltale limitations in frequency response. But fear not – this is far from being one of those crackly, distorted and muffled optical soundtracks you’ve heard on many a sub-standard DVD. If you want aural pyrotechnics, look elsewhere – but as a representation of how Betty Blue is supposed to sound, this track is near-perfect.

Audio is provided, thankfully, in the original French only, with English language subtitles turned on by default (though they can be disabled for those who understand the film’s native language). Admirably, the subtitle text is supplied in a similar yellow colour to that used by SBS Television, which is both easier on the eyes and kinder to the look of the movie itself. The translation is reasonably good (with a couple of minor typos); it and the subtitle encoding were done by a Paris-based company.

  Extras
Contract

Details on the French DVD release of Betty Blue seem somewhat hard to come by, and hard to interpret when they are found; it would appear, however, that the French version of the disc offers a commentary from director Jean-Jacques Beineix as well as some cast and/or crew interviews, none of which appears on our local version of the disc. However, it’s highly likely that any commentary would have been done entirely in French (and therefore, without a translating subtitle stream, unusable on an Australian release); also, the French disc was released by Paramount, who did not have any input into the Australian disc. The important point is that we get the same 16:9 video transfer that France does – and perhaps more importantly, our disc has almost its entire dual-layer space allocated to the feature itself.

In common with almost all DVDs authored by Melbourne-based Madman Interactive, the design and presentation of the fully-animated and 16:9 enhanced main menu is absolutely flawless and completely attuned to the movie it introduces; it looks, to put it simply, absolutely stunning. Madman is easily the most skilled authoring team in Australia at the moment when it comes to design and presentation. They are also the only authoring house in this country currently making use of the “jacket picture” feature of DVD (supported by almost all Sony DVD players, but mysteriously never included on Sony’s own DVDs!); like all their other discs, Betty Blue will display a full-screen cover image on Sony players when the disc is stopped. This disc is also encoded with DVD Text information.

Extras-wise, we’re limited to a few small things:

Trailer: Running 1 minute 43 seconds and presented in a non-16:9 letterboxed format, this is the original French trailer for the 1991 release of the longer version of the film, complete with French-language narration (which is not subtitled). A great inclusion, spoilt only by the superimposition of big yellow text saying “BETTY BLUE: Extra 1 hour of footage” atop a large section of the trailer. To the person that did this, may we politely ask that you never do it again? Ta.

Profiles: Here, on successive text screens, are filmographies of the two leads and the director. Strangely, Béatrice Dalle doesn’t seem to get a biography, while the bio for Jean-Hughes Anglade is lifted straight from the online All Movie Guide. Beineix’s bio also contains a link to a brief, six-page interview, which basically amounts to the director’s response to a single question from one Richard Comb; what Beineix has to say here, though, is both fascinating and enlightening, and one wishes there was more from him to read here.

Awards And Nominations: Exactly what you’d expect, though less expected was the realisation that while Betty Blue was nominated for many awards, it never won any.

Soundtrack CD: Don’t get excited – this is just a static screen advertising Virgin Records’ extremely popular CD soundtrack of the film’s score.

Madman Propaganda: A welcome regular feature on Madman discs, this is a set of trailers for upcoming releases from the company. This time around we get trailers for The Monkey’s Mask, Mullet (due in December 2001), the just-released Paris, Texas, Amores Perros and The Dinner Game. None are 16:9 enhanced.

  Overall  
Contract

A perfectly judged human drama done with generous helpings of both style and humour, Betty Blue is a true French cinema classic. Its accessibility gives it wide appeal, and those not usually inclined to visit the world of subtitled cinema should not be afraid to jump in here. And more importantly, Beineix’s unflinching acceptance of sex as a vital part of the story being told is far from exploitative – indeed, it’s critical to the movie’s believability and its ultimate success in connecting with the viewer. Madman Cinema’s DVD presents the film beautifully both in terms of technical quality and disc design, and its timely local release gives a whole new generation of movie fans a chance to experience one of the best-loved European films of the last couple of decades.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=890
  • Send to a friend.

    Cast your vote here: You must enable cookies to vote.
  •   
      And I quote...
    "Madman Cinema’s DVD presents the film beautifully both in terms of technical quality and disc design..."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
      Recent Reviews:
    by Anthony Horan

    Immortal Beloved
    "For two hours, this film will transport you..."

    Pet Shop Boys - Pop Art
    "A must-buy for Pet Shop Boys fans, Pop Art is also highly recommended for those who remember how good pop music could be in the ‘80s."

    Alias - The Complete First Season
    "One of the most addictive and entertaining US television series' in many years... Buena Vista's DVD set gets almost everything right."

    R.E.M.: In View - The Best of 1988-2003
    "Every home should have one."

    Queen Margot
    "A spectacular, enthralling masterpiece..."

      Related Links
      None listed

     

    Search for Title/Actor/Director:
    Google Web dvd.net.au
       Copyright © DVDnet. All rights reserved. Site Design by RED 5   
    rss