‘1 . . .Renewing our enthusiasm, restoring our faculty of being dazzled, that terrible pleasure of forgetting everything for two hours and giving in to the power of emotions that take us out of ourselves. . . . "
L’Evenement “Thank you, cinema. . .. thank you, Beineix. . . . " L’Exprws. The French press has joyously acclaimed the new ﬁlm by Diva director, Jean-Jacques Beineix. Betty Blue: 37 °2 in the Morning, is by times, lyrical, passionate and humorous. It is also a soaring tragedy which Beineix, not unreasonably, views as one among the greatest of love stories.
In person. Beineix is slight, dark- eyed and intense, a tanned unshaven ﬁgure in a crumpled jacket. His English is colourful, the French rhythms lending an air of poetry to the phrases he uses. He talks eloquently about tragedy as a form, which, in ﬁction at least, is directly related to the ‘amour fou‘ (mad love) that the ﬁlm’s
. young lovers Zorg and his free spirit,
Betty, discover. ‘The tragedy is a part of this passion,
. this deregulation in the relationship. It
is a projection of our fears. We know that things never last, so we imagine a
tragedy, so as to be safer in our lives. . ..
It is a kind of exorcism.‘ That the ﬁlm,
based on the novel by Philippe Dijan. : should have touched so many raw nerves is no surprise to Beineix: ‘You
know when you see two tennis players
3 and one is on the edge of winning and
suddenly loses, I think this is the fear of winning and also the fear of loving — the fear that it could ﬁnish —- stop — or be stolen from you, this happiness.‘
Betty Blue is for its director, ‘some kind of fairytale, except that there are no horses or witches, only elements of nowadays.’ Paradoxically, within the ﬁction of the ﬁlm, it is ‘nowadays‘, with its poverty and ignorance, that is too strong for Betty‘s romanticism. Betty herself is a ﬁgurative extreme as a character, but also is a reflection of the frustrations of real young people. ‘She has passion, but no patience.‘
Betty, on discovering Zorg's unpublished notebooks dreams that he will one day be a famous writer. She furiously types up his manuscripts only to have them derided as obscene by the publishers she takes them to.
Betty is always dreaming of creating something, even a baby, (37 °2 in the Morning indicates pregnancy), yet she becomes a destructive force. She descends into madness, yet also escapes into another dimension of her passion. ‘I think this is also the way it works in real life. When you become crazy, it is a refusal of a situation you can't bear.’ But he stresses: ‘this is not a thesis, or a social movie; it induces feelings. There is no analysis to be made interms of logic.’
In fact the story, is not his overriding concern. ‘You can say many things without telling a story. It is just there to give some kind of alibi. You deal directly with the unconcious of the audience by the atmosphere you create.’
Jean-Jacques Beineix’s last ﬁlm, The Moon in the Gutter, took this approach to its extreme, and was panned by critics. It is a humiliation which still
J ean-J acques Beineix’s new film Betty Blue is the opening gala at this year’s Edinburgh International
Film Festival. Stephanie Billen went to Paris to talk
to the man who made Diva.
rankles. After the stylised ‘melodrama’ of Diva, people approached the new ﬁlm with grand, but misplaced expectations. ‘They came to see a thriller. They wanted an enquiry, but the movie was a quest. . . .The Moon was an opera without a singer’, says Beineix. A ﬁlm noir, starring Gerard Depardieu and Natassja Kinski, it was ‘about fake, about representation, non- communication. . .. everything’s fake, even when you say “I love you”, because you say it in the words of the stars, like in the movies.’ He adds: ‘It was nothing to do with reality. It was not a social statement about poverty — just about a wandering soul in a desperate harbour with ghosts of cargoes, red cranes, pale ﬁgures of dead women. . . .’
Without a story-line, the images were misunderstood or scorned, the ﬁlm proving neither a critical nor box-ofﬁce success.
Remembering the unfavourable ﬁrst reactions to Diva from its producers and critics, Beineix talks darkly about ‘some treachery’ in the way The Moon was received. But he adds also that he was aiming for something ‘with the wrong means’. ‘I had to come back to human beings, even though The Moon was about humans, about someone incapable of love because he was split in his mind between two
representations of woman, one sexual and one ideal.’ His disenchantment about The Moon '3 fate was real, but he admits ‘I was like a spoilt kid who discovers life is tough. . . . .I had dreamt about a movie and made some kind of a nightmare.’
Betty Blue, is triumphantly ‘back to human beings.‘ Its two main stars, Jean- Hugues Anglade (the roller-skating pick-pocket in Subway), and Beatrice Dalle, are superb together. Dalle, making her acting debut, is being hailed as the new Bardot. Twenty years old, an ex-punk and model, she has admitted to feeling ‘no great distance’ between Betty and herself. ‘She thinks she is that character’, says Beineix. ‘It is a bit of naivety, she would like to be free, but I don’t think she wants to become really crazy or mad.‘ He is fascinated by her talent. ‘She is a natural. She has never acted before and she gave herself without even knowing what she was doing, giving all her passion and spontenaiety in the character and discovering herself. Sometimes she was becoming very shy and afraid of what she was doing, then as in a state of self-confrontation, she was doing it.’ Her freshness was irresistible to the director. And of the screen love affair, he says: ‘I think they bothhad a serious passion for each other in the movie, a real appeal for
each other to be those two characters. I was just like an old “matron”, a chaperone watching the two birds of youth.’ Beineix claims never to ‘direct actors.‘ ‘I believe more in creating the situation. In general people overact.’
The players are younger than the novel’s protagonists, who are an experienced 35 and 30, as opposed to 30 and 20. ‘I changed it because I knew the advantage of being young, in the charm and charisma that, unfortunately, you lose when you get older. It was difﬁcult because of the maturity of the characters in the novel. . .. but then that is the difference between now and the old days; a woman of twenty can have the experience of a woman of thirty, as with Beatrice.’
Beineix makes a point of choosing new talent. ‘Even ifl take known people like Gerard Depardieu, it is in order to give them a part they have never known before.‘ He owns to being ‘a little pessimistic’ about stardom. ‘A great deal of the system is based on selling your image. . . .They xerox your head, your body, your attitude, your smile. You become the alibi of a system which uses you without giving you any thing. But it is the image, the ghost of yourself, people grasp. You the human being, the lonely person, stay with your loneliness.’
Beating the system, and he implies it is not just a problem for actors, requires: ‘having real passion and pleasure in acting and ﬁlming. . .. to improve your art according to what you are, to aim for harmony, balance and beauty, and to understand some mysterious music or sound. This is the only way to escape from this world of appearance.‘
I can‘t help asking how Jean-Jacques escaped the world of medicine. his early chosen career. ‘You think about the future in connection with your present. I was gifted with my hands sol thought about becoming a surgeon. . .. Then I had some existential problems which brought me to think about psychoanalysis. . .. But I was not mature enough to accept staying hours trapped in a library with an open book that I couldn’t learn by heart. I wanted to live real life, experiment, touch things. . .. l was looking for ajobjust to make money. I had forgotten I was dreaming of making ﬁlms.’ Opportunity came in the unexpected form of a girlfriend with a friend in the ﬁlm business. ‘It was a gofer job. I took it and I never released my clutch.‘
Today, Beineix is also a renowned commercials director in France. He refers to this work as ‘an ascetic drill’, a kind of high-level exercise. ‘It is not only to make money. I give them more than they give me.... beyond this, it is an experiment with the work. It is a constant reﬂection of making pictures, from several technical angles. You have to ﬁnd in a scene, or the frame, where is the element of energy and only this... . It is also a school lesson in humility in the way you serve not your own glory but the glory of your producer. Psychologically it is very interesting.‘
Jean-Jacques has in fact been driven to consider doing nothing but
20 The List 8 — 21 August