Easy-going handyman and unpublished author Zorg, hooks up with volatile beauty Betty, who is determined to get his books into print. When the rejections pile up, her fury leads them on a self-destructive spiral into and out of Paris and to the vestiges of sanity.
Much celebrated for its fraught sexuality, rampant nudity and frothy, stylised direction, not to forget a poster that bedecked a million student walls as some kind of emblem of intellectual as well as hedonistic fervour, Betty Blue is a marvel of sheer verve over any kind of sensible substance. It is a teenage dream of curvy, indolent sirens fuelling stalled creativity with tip-top shagging and near dementia.
The opening alone is a magnificently dolly shot into a beachside shack to discover Beatrice Dalle, whose pouting air of carnal need makes Angelina Jolie resemble a prudish great-aunt, and whippet skinny Jean Hugues Anglade making the beast with two backs with some abandon. Director Jean-Jacques Beineix isn’t one for pussy footing around, his quasi-noir flourishes grant the film a heated energy it never pulls away from.
In fact, it just grows ever more hysterical as Dalle hones in on some kind of nuclear breaking point, the rejection of her lover’s prose taken as a personal assault. It is a memorable performance, mostly minus her underwear, as torrid as her director’s panting camerawork. The script is hardly taking it easy either, with its sub-Chandler epithets pretending to be profound remarks: “"She was a flower with psychic antennae and a tinsel heart.” Poor Anglade understandably seems to be reeling for the entire film, a dope caught in a maelstrom.
How you take such fulminating erotica depends on how seriously you take it. There is a pleasing sense that Beineix is leaving to us to decide whether this is pure parody, fully aware of its loopy overtones, or blunderbuss wish fulfilment, an artist’s ultimate concoction that his muse would turn up with great breasts, an insatiable itch and a willingness to do the paperwork.
More style than substance... but such sexy, sexy style...