Béatrice Dalle in 37°2 le matin (1986)

BETTY BLUE (37°2 le matin)

(director/writer: Jean-Jacques Beineix; screenwriter: from the novel by Philippe Djian; cinematographer: Jean-François Robin; editors: Marie-Aimée Debril/Monique Prim; music: Gabriel Yared; cast: Jean-Hugues Anglade (Zorg), Béatrice Dalle (Betty), Gérard Darmon (Eddy), Consuelo De Haviland (Lisa), Philippe Laudenbach (Gyneco Publisher), Jacques Mathou (Bob), Claude Confortes (Landlord of Bungalows), Clémentine Célarié (Annie), Vincent Lindon (Policeman Richard); Runtime: 185; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jean-Jacques Beineix/Claudie Ossard; Cinema Libre Studio; 1986-France-in French with English subtitles)

“It’s a passionate love story executed in a dull fashion.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beineix’s (“Diva”/”The Moon in the Gutter”/”IP5”) director’s cut, that goes for 185 minutes. It’s a passionate love story executed in a dull fashion, that’s adapted from the amour fou novel, “37 Degrees 2 Le Matin,” by enfant terrible author Philippe Djian. The lengthier version, adding more than an hour’s worth of material from the original, something that hardly seems needed except to tell the full story. It’s an unsatisfying and inconsequential literary ambition, that has little to say about obsession and a woman descending into madness–its themes–but it does offer a visually friendly glossy style and some diverting heavy breathing soft-core porn.

Slovenly beachfront handyman and aspiring writer Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade), under a picture of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, is passionately screwing the fiery, free-spirited, delicious ex-waitress Betty (Béatrice Dalle, the 21-year-old model’s debut as an actress) in his landlord’s bungalow. Troubled that Zorg’s pushy and lecherous boss is making him paint all the shacks he owns on the beachfront as punishment for keeping a girl on the premises, the crazed Betty throws the boss off the porch. Later when Betty discovers her man’s manuscript and jumps to the conclusion that it’s a masterpiece, she burns down the shack which forces them to leave the seacoast for Paris and therefore to get the novel published. There they reside with Betty’s widowed friend Lisa (Consuelo De Haviland) in her suburban apartment. Lisa soon finds a wild boyfriend, Eddy (Gérard Darmon), who runs a pizza store and they become a foursome.

Eventually, while on an unsuccessful campaign to get her man’s novel published, Betty shows that she doesn’t take too well to rejection notices and begins to act erratic and hear voices (an early sign of schizophrenia). The couple now dwell in the south of France, where they run a piano store that the sleazeball Eddy inherited when his mom passed away.

Betty, after her pregnancy doesn’t work out, suddenly changes from being freakishly irrepressible to being a psychopath who influences her man to rob a bank and then goes completely insane as she tries to take her eyes out.

Beineix plays the melodrama as mostly slapstick, and that seems disconcerting for such an earthy film that veers in its pretentious poses between being an art movie or a sexual exploitation one.