Who even knew there was a director’s cut of Betty Blue? I didn’t. In fact, I’ll go so far as to admit I didn’t realize that’s what I’d bought a ticket to see Monday night at the Nuart, until at some point there was one too many moments where I thought “I don’t remember this part…” As it turns out, the director’s cut is a full hour longer than the original theatrical release, clocking in at 185 minutes (the 1986 release was 120 minutes). It was sort of a surreal experience to rewatch a movie after decades and have it be so memorable and yet also new. If you haven’t seen Betty Blue, you have two more nights–tonight and tomorrow–to catch it at the Nuart. If you have seen it, do yourself a favor and go anyway. This is the first time the director’s cut has been released in the US and it’s just as great a movie as you remember. (More on the surreal-ness of Monday night and the greatness of Beineix after the jump.)
Beineix explains that this release is actually “a polished version of the rough cut.” The extra footage helps develop both characters more thoroughly and adds poignancy to the melodrama of the relationship. There are a number of comic scenes that were completely cut from the original release as well. The Landmark site describes Betty Blue as “quintessential French cinema,” and one can hardly argue.
I got a crush on Beineix in 1982 when Diva, his first feature, screened in the US. I was a disaffected teenager trapped in suburban misery, and ripe for cinéma du look‘s romantic alienation. In his contemporaneous review of Diva, Ebert says, “In a way, it doesn’t even matter what this movie is about,” and it’s true–the movie is so gorgeous that on one level it plays like a series of stills. But of course, Beineix always has a hell of a plot to go along with the eye candy. Diva is a sappy/edgy love story that even an adolescent punk need not be too embarrassed about falling for. Some years later, when Betty Blue came out, the crush turned to love. It was 1986. I was 21 and living in Washington, D.C. which was, at that time, mid-Reagan dynasty and edging toward its infamy as the murder capital of the United States. Yet, sitting in the Biograph, watching Betty Blue, none of that crap mattered. Beineix had again charmed us into caring far more about doomed imaginary love than anything going on outside the theater. I cried again when I saw the movie Monday night.
I was still sniffling when we left the Nuart. Outside, a pair of helicopters circled overhead, searchlights scanning the neighborhood. “They look like they’re right over where we parked,” my cinema companion said. As we rounded the corner and got closer, cop cars continued to converge. Sure enough, the block that held Shane’s Neon was cordoned off by crime scene tape. As we stood there, police cars drove up and down alleys and the helicopters continued their overhead dance, a body was draped with a sheet (too far away to get more than an impressionistic view), more territory was taped off, police strode purposefully around the perimeter. When we asked what had happened, one officer told us someone was shot. Today’s online research reveals that it was an “officer-involved” shooting.
We had to get a ride back to the valley from a friend. Shane wasn’t able to get his car until the next day. We both agreed that it was a bit more of an 80s flashback than we’d hoped for. Go see the movie anyway. The 80s was about a lot more than Michael Jackson.