BETTY BLUE (or 37º2 LE MATIN, to give it its original French title) is a film based on a book by Philippe Dijan, and centres around Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a 30-year-old painter and plumber who has written a novel that keeps being refused by publishers. His girlfriend is the titular Betty (a very good start for Béatrice Dalle), a 19-year-old beauty who has a penchant for becoming unpredictable in her behaviour to the point where she could literally be throwing the toys out of the pram.
Zorg has an argument with his boss, which Betty takes very badly and makes our young couple leave the area to try and get Zorg's book published in the big city. However, the refusals from publishers continue, and this causes our wildcat Betty to fly off the handle in her own inimitable way, but her mood swings and rage become an increasing concern for Zorg, and might lead to disastrous consequences. How can their relationship possibly survive?
I've not read the original book, but nothing can alter the fact that this is a highly accomplished example of French cinema at its best, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix. Each shot is beautifully coloured, with clever uses of blues and yellows in particular. Anglade and Dalle are fantastic to watch, with very believable performances from the pair of them, and you wonder what could have happened to Dalle had she not had the occasional moments similar to her Betty character in real life (one altercation with the law reportedly denied her the ability to get a US visa to get a role on THE SIXTH SENSE). Dalle in particular really sets the screen alight with her beautiful smile and alluring performance.
There is a fair bit of sex and nudity in this film. In fact, the very moment that the opening credits end you're in a sex scene! You also see a lot of shots of full-frontal nudity from both of the principal performers, and the most prudish might be a bit annoyed about the number of times Anglade walks around naked with, ahem, everything on show. But in all fairness this is a different culture, and the whole film certainly doesn't come off as gratuitous when there's so much else to marvel at. Yes, the film is almost three hours long, but it's not really a drag at all (and nobody says you have to watch the whole thing at once on DVD).
The music plays an integral part in the film, especially from the moment that the two end up in a piano store and play a tune together, which resurfaces in later key parts of the film. Gabriel Yared composed the score.
Given Betty's problems, you might think that the film's all doom and gloom when she goes into one of her rages, but in fact there are plenty of times when she's really sweet and smiley, and the film is punctuated with some light-hearted comic moments that do not detract from the film in any way.