The U.S. is finally ready for steamy “Betty Blue”

The 1986 French film comes to Minneapolis as its intended three-hours of naked glory.

Betty and her lover Zorg in the first throes of twitterpation.
PHOTO COURTESY LANDMARK THEATERS

Ashley Goetz

Betty and her lover Zorg in the first throes of twitterpation. PHOTO COURTESY LANDMARK THEATERS

âÄúBetty BlueâÄù DIRECTED BY: Jean-Jacques Beineix STARRING: Béatrice Dalle, Jean-Hugues Anglade RATED: Not rated SHOWING: Edina Cinema Exclusive one week engagement begins July 24) âÄúI had known Betty for a week. We screwed every night. The forecast was for storms.âÄù So are the opening lines of French film âÄúBetty Blue,âÄù spoken by its lazily handsome narrator, Zorg. And so begins a torrid love story, a quintessentially French sort (lots of sex) that stunned audiences 20 years ago and continues to do so today, as an exclusive three hour directorâÄôs cut is finally being released. âÄúBetty BlueâÄù was released in 1986 and created a shockwave of controversy for its seriously explicit sex scenes, which look so genuine some speculated over exactly how much was faked. For the first time in the United States, itâÄôs being shown in its entirety, as was intended by its director Jean-Jacques Beineix . A whole extra hour is being added to the film to the delight of the cinema community, many of whom value âÄúBetty BlueâÄù as an important touchstone of French film. Betty (Béatrice Dalle ) is beautiful, a tempest of dark hair and fiercely burning eyes. She and the narrator are in the midst of a passionate love affair, and since the movie comes from France, that passion is explicitly proven in all sorts of different positions and manners. Within the confines of their little beachside cottage, Zorg (Jean-Hughes Anglade ) and Betty experience all the greatest highs of what is referred to as âÄúlâÄôamour fouâÄù (crazy love) âÄî infatuation, obsession, a quick whirlwind trip down the rabbit hole known as desire. But wait, thereâÄôs a catch: Zorg soon learns that Betty is bonkers. And not exactly crazy in love, but the straight-up brand of crazy that drives her to burn down houses, stab a woman in the chest with a fork and descend into madness. âÄúBetty BlueâÄù seems to inspire either an obsessive, Betty-worthy love or loathing from audience and critics alike. Roger Ebert hates it , but âÄúProzac NationâÄù scribe (and sometimes batty word volcano) Elizabeth Wurtzel examines BettyâÄôs eventual breakdown at length in her 1998 exodus, âÄúBitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. âÄù And BettyâÄôs beautiful, wild-woman craziness is the movieâÄôs ultimate draw; her descent into insanity makes the movie worth seeing. WurtzelâÄôs notion of the âÄúcrazy womanâÄù is at full play in âÄúBetty Blue.âÄù Betty destroys things like a tornado, while still wrapping Zorg around her finger since she was such a charming and free spirit when they first met. Wurtzel compares her to Edie Sedgwick, âÄúMost guys do not want to get involved with a girl on fire.âÄù Like a bout of madness, âÄúBetty BlueâÄù veers from a depiction of the first glints of love and passion that is red hot with sexiness to the ugliness and filth of a great unraveling. Beineix makes the slightest changes in the scenery to reflect their emotional ruin. For example, dirty dishes pile up as Zorg and BettyâÄôs life begins to swerve out of control. When not focusing on the gray, the cinematics flirt with the region beyond rated R. The film opens with the couple in flagrante delicto beneath a print of the Mona Lisa. ItâÄôs not the soft focus sex of big budget Hollywood movies, but instead the much more intimate, though unnerving, reality of intercourse often only shown in foreign film. Beineix was one of FranceâÄôs best known âÄúnew New WaveâÄù directors, whose first movie âÄúDiva âÄù was a surprise hit. His second attempt, âÄúMoon in the Gutter ,âÄù was a colossal failure. However, âÄúBetty BlueâÄù, garnered a Best Foreign Film Oscar nod and the accolades of all sorts of critics. The addition of the new footage fills important holes in the storyline and further develops the motivations behind the characters. Beineix told The Hollywood Interview âÄî a blog that features interviews with actors and directors âÄî that his original was actually four hours long, but he cut it to a reasonable length to âÄúmake the distributors happy.âÄù âÄúI cut a lot of the intermediary scenes, focused as much as possible on the action and suppressed secondary characters,âÄù he said in an interview with Landmark Theaters, who are distributing the new cut throughout the nation. âÄúIt resulted in box office success and received critical acclaim. From there, I reinvested part of my share into a directorâÄôs cut, which is the original version. By doing so, I ended the doubts I had about my own artistic integrity.âÄù Like any livewire, Betty brims with vigor, as those who possess a powerful life-light often do. However, those sorts of lights always burn out and watching the process of a breakdown, however naked and frenetic it may be, is the reason âÄúBetty BlueâÄù continues to captivate a jaded audience today.