Viewed – 02 May 2020 Blu-ray (A-Z Collection Challenge)
This was one of those guilty pleasures for me as an adolescent, hormonal teenager. Yeah it’s one of those typically French movies that’s greatest appeal was scenes of rather explicit sex and a very frank approach to on screen nudity. However, as time went buy and subsequent viewings I began to see beyond the ‘naughty stuff’ and appreciate the rather touching, albeit tragic love story at the movie’s heart.
Jean-Hugues Anglade stars as Zorg, a handyman and would-be writer in a passionate relationship with free spirited Betty (Beatrice Dalle) who are drifting through life going from one situation to another, getting jobs, making friends and experiencing life. However it quickly transpires that Betty has more than a few psychological problems and as the story progresses, those problems take a turn for the worse.
Immediately its not hard to see why actress Beatrice Dalle was the iconic poster girl of many a bedroom wall in the 80’s … she’s undeniably sexy, incredibly photogenic and exudes French chic. Although shot in a realistic fashion, the cinematography perfectly captures that European exotic and historical beauty, be it with sun-drenched beach communities, rolling French countryside or quante villages. It makes the journey the couple go on particularly captivating. Anglade is very likeable and is the viewers anchor to the otherwise wild and unpredictable Dalle who delivers an equally likeable, fun and ultimately heart-breaking performance thats very convincing. A classic of French cinema that proves just as engaging and effective as it was over 30 years ago.
I picked up the Second Sight Blu-ray that boasts two cuts of the movie. I’d recommend the 3hr director’s cut over the 2hr theatrical version as although both versions are very similar, where the story goes is handled better and not as sudden as the shorter cut. The Blu-ray itself boasts a decent image that although not that sharp has strong colours, which are a big draw here. We also get a making of (featuring new interviews with cast and crew) and some Beatrice Dalle screen tests. So not amazing treatment but the movie is in decent shape, the somewhat soft look does suit the movie, and sound is adequate in 2.0 stereo.
Took another look at this and so have decided to update my review. This is part of the recent trend of extreme French horror, that has spawned the likes of Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension), Frontier(s) and the harrowing Martyrs. So how does this one stack up?
Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is a heavily pregnant woman who four months previous survived a horrific car crash that claimed the life of her fiancé. Now alone on Christmas Eve and ready to give birth on Christmas Day, she’s a bewildered, lonely young woman who feels she’s just going through the motions and her life has little meaning anymore … even her love of photography feels empty. Enter onto the scene a weird stranger (Beatrice Dalle) who arrives late at night and demands to be let into the house. So sets forth an unrelenting battle for survival as an obviously demented woman attempts to kill Sarah and take her unborn baby.
This is a disturbing premise for sure, especially for anyone with a child on the way, so I’d recommend severe caution if sitting down to watch this very nasty and blood-soaked film. The gory murders are unflinching and graphic, with an intensity to them due to the dark and claustrophobic setting, where many scenes are almost in total darkness. Now as a fan of extreme horror this certainly delivers as far as subject and gore are concerned, but lacks some of the finesse of similar movies, and although it’s obvious the director(s) are trying hard to ramp up the tension with music and sound effects, their efforts just aren’t as well implemented. Performance-wise we get a powerful, emotional turn from Paradis and totally believe in her plight as she tries to survive, and the creepy, black-widow Beatrice Dalle is a horror villain to rival the best of them, with every moment she’s on-screen sending chills through my whole body.
The struggle between the two women is very well-played out, the various shots to the traumatized unborn baby adding real power to events, but ultimately this is a movie that revels a little too much in the red stuff, and this threatens to overwhelm what is otherwise a very powerful and deeply atmospheric experience.
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