Betty Blue


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.

Verdict:

(the movie)

Theatrical – Good

Director’s Cut – Recommended

(the Blu-ray) Good

Climax


Viewed – 31 July 2019. Online rental

French director Gaspar Noe made ‘Irreversible’, arguably the most disturbing and unpleasant movie I’ve ever seen. So sitting down to this generally well-received drama, I was understandably cautious. Yet I’m also someone who likes to challenge one’s boundaries and I do have a love for French cinema. So thought I’d give this a go.

What story there is focuses on a group of free-spirited dancers who all seem part of a group who hang out and dance in a club that blasts rave music where they can feel free to let themselves go. Only thing is as the night progresses people start feeling ill and begin acting crazy as if their drinks have been spiked. I’ll admit it was at this stage I began to get interested as up until then this fairly plodding, about nothing in particular movie was doing nothing for me.

Gaspar Noe, his direction like an observer of the mayhem that unfolds, however ruins a potentially provocative, unhinged idea by lingering way too long on various moments. His long-takes whilst initially impressive in style quickly out stayed their welcome – a longer than necessary series of talking heads as the opening, various moments of chatter and banter that go on far too long, all culminating in contorting and convulsing bodies on a dance floor that’s like something out of a nightmare – which goes on and on and on. I get it, its a decent into drug-fuelled hell, and is performed convincingly but even with this it doesn’t go far enough to achieve much of anything. Noe’s-weak attempts to comment on birth, sex or death. just come off pretentious also.

Incredibly arty, self-indulgent, good camera work, impressive dance moves, but ultimately … rather boring.

Verdict: 2 /5

Raw


Viewed – 02 October 2017  Online-rental

I think it can’t be argued by anyone familiar with French horror cinema, that they certainly challenge boundaries and cross lines on what is acceptable or even tolerable in a horror movie.  The infamous Martyrs proved that and now we come to this latest, French-Belgian offering that quite literally goes for the jugular.

RAW

Justine (Garance Marillier), a gifted female student starts her first week at Veterinary school where she finds herself involved in a brutal hazing ritual.  Whilst getting covered in Horse blood and generally abused by the seniors, despite being a devout  vegetarian, Justine is pushed into consuming raw meat.  However the experience unlocks a new found craving and it’s not long before Justine finds herself developing a hunger for human flesh.

Part coming-of-age movie, part sexual awakening with a twist … this gritty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek drama is equally distasteful and weirdly fascinating.  The movie jumps from development to development a little too quickly for me, with Justine’s cannibalistic cravings coming as a bit of a leap.  However with at times artfully stylish and unflinching direction from first timer Julia Ducournau – I couldn’t look away.  Even during some of the sicker sequences, with a stomach churning finger-eating like it’s KFC scene almost reaching my limit.  It never gets as gory as suggested though, but is effectively disturbing in it’s rather ‘matter of fact’ approach to something unthinkable.

Certainly not for a wide audience and well, left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth (no pun intended) … but as an example of daring, provocative movie making, this still proved effective.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

High Tension


Viewed – 12 November 2013  Blu-ray

Director’s Cut

Amongst horror fans, this one movie has quite a reputation.  Firstly it spawned the surge of extreme horror coming out of France, that unleashed such cult favourites as À l’intérieur (Inside) and the infamous Martyrs.  It also kick started the career of director Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes).  This tells the tale of best friends Marie (Cécile De France) and Alex (Maïwenn) who travel to the countryside residence of Alex’s parents to stay for a holiday.  However, amongst the idyllic surroundings, there lurks a serial killer, who drives a rusty old van and is waiting for the right moment to strike.

high tension

This atmospheric and nerve-shredding slasher movie is France’s answer to all those American genre movies that copycat Friday The 13th and Halloween – albeit with a brutal unflinching intensity that’s not easy to recover from.  In America this was initially cut by several minutes to avoid the dreaded NC-17 certificate, but this unrated ‘directors cut’ restores all the blood and violence that the director intended.  Rejoice gore-hounds, their is much to get your hands dirty with here – graphic throat slitting, beheadings, stabbings and even a chainsaw!!  But I digress – above all else this movie is primarily about tension.  Violence is spaced out, infrequent, but when it comes – it packs a punch … made all the more effective by intense build-ups.  It’s clear why the movie’s title is High Tension (Haute Tension) when translated, as apposed to the less ideal Switchblade Romance as it’s known in the UK. 

Now let’s get to why this movie has also divided critics.  There is a twist, that is much talked about and is basically why this isn’t perfect … and for me ruins the overall effect.  All I can say to Alexandre Aja is … why?  My only explanation is that when this movie was released in 2003, there were many a movie that had a twist – it was the in thing, but the movie worked well enough without one.  It’s a real shame because this is brilliantly shot, with a superb use of sound and music (especially Muse’s New Born) that regardless of such a fault – still manages to be a cut above similar horrors.  After repeated viewings, I can’t forgive what direction Aja chose to take, which means it’s far from a masterpiece, but oh boy … will you remember it!

The Blu-ray from Lionsgate features the movie in eye-catching HD and although the muted colour pallet and the mostly night time setting prevent this from being a showpiece title – the movie is in great condition, and the 7.1 DTS French Soundtrack is superb and really effective.  Some controversy has been labelled at the dubbed French voices, but I found it barely noticeable.  There is also an English dubbed soundtrack (best avoided) if you just can’t do subtitles (shame on you!).  Add to this several featurettes exploring the making of, as well as an English language commentary by the director and producer (well worth a listen) and scene specific commentary also – that for fans this is an essential purchase.  Everyone else I recommend this if you’re after a really tense and brutal slasher that doesn’t hold back … but perhaps leave your brain on pause.

Verdict:

(the movie):  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray):  4 /5

A Monster In Paris


Viewed – 01 September 2012  Blu-ray

I’ve not been that aware of animated movies originating from France.  Although I had heard some good stuff about them, this is my first dip in the French animation waters – and I must say I have come away pleasantly surprised.  Set in Paris in 1910, a trio of characters; a love-lorn theatre projectionist, a weeling-dealing inventor and a feisty cabaret singer are flung together when an accident at a laboratory transforms a flea into a giant monster.  However, when the cabaret singer discovers there’s more to the creature than people believe, a friendship blossoms.

Directed by Bibo Bergeron (Shark Tale), this is a bizarre story to say the least, but is done with panache and quite beautiful animation, showing off a european art style that sets it apart from the likes of Pixar.  The main protagonists are well written and interesting, and the monster bares more than a passing resemblance to The Phantom Of The Opera, which I’m guessing was a big influence.  For an animated movie there are a few musical numbers that really got my foot tapping, and with French model / singer Vanessa Paradis (Depp’s ex) supplying her voice to the cabaret singer – this was a fun, if undemanding experience.

Granted, the villain is utterly contrived, the story takes a bit of time to get going and it all seems to end about three times … but the action, comedy, music and visuals all came together well, which makes this one to check out regardless.

Verdict:  3 /5