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37.2 le matin | why is betty blue?

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When I first saw Betty Blue, or as it was originally known, 37.2 le matin in French, I was so moved by Beatrice Dalle’s performance. It seemed to me that either she was one incredibly good actress to pull of such an incredibly diverse and complicated role, or that perhaps a part of her went into the performance. Whatever the case, I spent many months afterward thinking about the film and having to endure friends in college tell me how much I reminded them of Betty, which wasn’t an entirely good thing, but then, wasn’t an entirely bad thing.

I mean, let’s face it, she was incredibly beautiful, I reasoned, incredibly sexy and here’s my boyfriend saying I remind him of her, but at the same time, I knew that she was incredibly nuts. Maybe nuts isn’t a fair word, though throughout the film she is told “vous etes fou”. How else would one respond, after all, to the many things that Betty does that are just not done.

The film starts with one of the most shocking and yes, realistic fucking scenes of all time. Brief credits, no warning, the film opens with Betty and Zorg fucking and fucking hard. This, to this point, is the extent of their relationship, based pretty much on good sex until later when she will turn up on Zorg’s doorstep, having quit her job as a waitress because all men are bastard pigs, she says (something happened here, though we never know quite what…). In any event, Betty clearly has issues, but Zorg seems okay with this, even somewhat amused or bemused. He’s so enchanted and taken with her, and Christ, who wouldn’t be. When she arrives on his doorstep, she may be nutty, but she wears a tiny black dress with a bib beneath which her breasts hand loose and sweet like plum tomatoes, the back of the dress flaps open showing off her white, lace knickers, and that smile and expression she has would make anyone’s heart melt – man or woman.

I won’t recount the whole film here, because that’s boring. Suffice to say that in short time, Betty turns Zorg’s small beach shack into what, at best, would be called “Zen” (after she throws everything out of the window because she’s annoyed and feels cramped and closed in), and later, she sets the whole place on fire. It’s the burning down of the shack that really begins the adventure. With nowhere to live, Betty and Zorg are really forced to travel on a journey that will eventually result in disaster and pain and crisis.

First, they go to a friend’s house in Paris or nearby Paris, where Betty determines that Zorg is a great writer one who must be recognized and she types his journals – a sweet gesture, since she can only finger type and insists nonetheless. When it is rejected, she physically attacks at least one publisher, slashing his face with a sharp, metal comb.

Betty seems at war with the world. A rejection, an attitude, the wrong look, or a salacious look perhaps, anything is enough to set off this incredibly rage that is so clearly mixed with sorrow. In due course, she attacks at least one publisher, a patron in a restaurant who is rude about Betty’s service, several other people over time, but mostly, and most awfully, Betty hurts herself.

I keep trying to pinpoint what it is that has her so upset and I can’t. No matter how many times I see this film, I’m not sure, and perhaps that’s the point. Maybe the point after all is that Betty has suffered some trauma, or some perceived trauma. That the world has let her down in so many ways, that much is palpable, and that men especially have hurt her –though how exactly remains vague (though I’ll add that there does seem to be some hint of something sexual, an assault perhaps or rape or childhood trauma, though this remains unspoken at least directly).

What we really see is a person who is mentally ill – the way John Nash or Plath or Van Gogh or any other s have suffered from illness that affects the mind. It may be a form of epilepsy that is neurologically based but affects the brain with it’s irritating bursts of electricity that cause random thoughts of slight, of hurt, of rage, of deeply felt sorrow. The same for manic depression or schizophrenia. Our Betty seems to fall into the later two – either manic depression or schizophrenia, with her rapid and intense ups and downs – moments of such intense joy and happiness.

When Betty laughs, when she claps her hands with joy, you just wish it would last forever. Never before have I seen a person so intense, so fucking gorgeous and sensual and almost childlike in her ability to feel so absolutely. It’s heartbreaking when she slips down into the sorrows and the laugh is but an echo and the love making and kissing with Zorg and even, by god, scenes of oral sex that are real and not some crap porn imitation of what sex is “supposed to be.” Finally, a film that shows us in all ways and all things, what they are, not how we wish, and by god that’s refreshing.

If nothing else, for as much sorrow this film holds, we finally have a film about love in all of its pain and joy and one that remains absolutely unforgettable. See it, and never forget that love warps the mind a little, but always, always, it’s worth it.

sadi ranson-polizzotti

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About Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    The opening scene of this movie clouds my judgment so much, that I can’t really evaluate it. Uhm, what was the rest of movie about?

    But yeah, one of the all-time great, my girlfriend is really hot, and totally crazy movies of all time.

  • http://sottovocce.blogspot.com/ srp

    heya

    i seem to have lost some of my post in the article, so the rest of the movie will be forthcoming…apologies. not sure what happened there ~~ odd. but i’ve lost iton disc as well, so now have to rewrite…but really it’s a film about Betty’s descent into madness. it’s incredibly sad. if you’ve seen it, then you know — but for the record, yes, i need to input more into this piece. apologies. having some hardware issues…durr~~~~

    thx.

    *
    *~}

    srp

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywel Rodney Welch

    My favorite character was Annie. I still harbor fantasies about being accosted by a flaming redhead in a supermarket who makes a similar demand.

  • http://sottovocce.blogspot.com/ srp

    yes, i like the redhead too — she is very, very …uh…ready. and god, those breasts are enormous! oh to be so… overall, a very sexy film. great story. my apologies for not including it all here… will attempt to fix. but glad you read. thx. as ever,

    srp

    *
    *~}

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywel Rodney Welch

    You’re going to make me rent it again!

  • http://sottovocce.blogspot.com/ srp

    there are worse things…why not rent it again… it makes one yearn, and yearning is okay – it’s a good thing. to be young is to feel desire. or, if you’re Ryan Adams, to be
    “young is to be sad,

    when you’re young you get sad,
    when you’re young you get high,
    when you’re young you get saaaadd,
    you get hiiighhh…woooooo”

    and you yearn yearn yearn.

    it’s all good…
    so rent it again.

  • http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywelch.blogspot.com/http://www.rodneywel Rodney Welch

    You don’t need youth to feel desire — I oughtta know, as mine is long gone. But I will rent it again. I’m intrigued by the idea of there being an “unrated director’s cut,” since the movie I saw was about as unrated and unexpurgated as you could get.

  • http://www.sottovocce.blogspot.com sad ranson polizzotti

    good point. it was about as graphic as it gets – so i wonder about that too. what could possibly be on the director’s cut? or perhaps we SAW the director’s cut and just don’t realize? not sure…either way, maybe worth a peek. I’ll take a look at my film

  • http://www.gallarotti.net Francesco Gallarotti

    Thank you for the wonderful page you have written here. I remember watching this movie the first time on tape in the hot summer 1989. I was just graduated from high school at the time and I loved the story, the complexity of the acting, the MUSIC (I can’t believe you haven’t even mentioned Yared’s masterpiece) and the photography.
    I would not be afraid to say that this movie has somehow inspired me in the rest of my life. The long search for a love that really meant something and at the same time was able to retain that almost innocent sexuality of the daily life of a loving couple… I loved the movie then… And let me say without any doubt I LOVED the director’s cut. Infact I would say that it goes to the extend to be simply a better cut. Much more intense and with some small cameos that went lost in the shorter theater cut. A must SEE!

  • http://www.tantmieux.squaurespace.com/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Franceso – yes, this film too was a major part of my sort of “realization” for lack of a better way of putting it of how a relationship could be, both good and bad, though for the most part – in the beginning anyway before things go haywire.

    My oversight not to mention Yared’s soundtrack (which i own) because it is wonderful and the film would not be the same without it…

    I too own the film/Director’s Cut so i know whereof you speak – it is a shame that so much gets lots in translation. Also, there is more Americanized version of the film, i think that is perhaps toned down (though i cannot verify that i know this is often the case. The same film in France is quite different – i think it must just be a cultural thing, tho i’m really not sure, and since i’m European, it’s difficult for me to speak to the American film culture in this regard…

    In any event – i’m glad i was able to bring up some hopefully good memories for you. Betty Blue is a life chaning film, as is 8.5 (8 1/2) by Fellini, which is another one you might like if you liked this… It’s different but i like it a great deal as also i greatly like the work of Trouffault. Check out 8.5 – different, but reminds me of in some ways for whatever reason.

    be well, and thanks for sharing your thoughts – interesting and thoughtful….

    s.

  • Peter Rosier

    Dear Sadi,

    I just saw ‘Betty Blue’ (or ‘37.2 le matin’) again for the first time for some years and it still has the power to entrance and shock. I became so involved with the main characters, and this is unusual in a longish film as the Director’s cut is, that I felt quite a sense of loss when it finished. I just had to go back to the first hour and a half and see some of it again, the happier times before it all went wrong. And yet the seeds of that madness are there, too, of course.

    Perhaps the appeal of the film is that it showcases something we have all experienced – a time of life where it all seems great before things begin to disintegrate. Anyway, it was good to read today your positive and open-minded review and apologies for my comments being some years late!

    Peter Rosier

  • http://tantmieux.squarespace.com/bob-dylan-on-tant-mieux-/ sadi ranson-polizzotti

    dear Peter – hi, and no worries about comments coming in later – this is fine, of course!

    Yes, Betty Blue is a heavy-hitter in terms of what it does to the view emotionally and the sense of loss and ‘loss’ when the film is finished. One is at a loss as to what to do, and there is also a pervasive and palpable sadness there. You can see the signs from the beginning, even in, as you say, “happier times” Betty is never quite stable in any ordinary sense of the word. She may be happier but not healthier in any real way… I can’t diagnose Betty and i don’t think that’s what the film is about anyway.

    At the end of the day, maybe this is a film about the ways in which we love so intensely, so madly, that it does in some ways, warp the mind a little… i believe that…

    thanks for your thoughtful comment….

    s.r.p.