1992 [FRENCH]


IMDb Rating 6.9 10 1452

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23.976 fps
1 hr 43 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by dbdumonteil 8 / 10

or the portrait of an immoral woman

The nineties didn't start under auspicious skies for Claude Chabrol. "Jours Tranquilles à Clichy" (1990) was a big bore, "Dr.M" (1990) constituted one more fiasco and one could have easily done without a new version of "Madame Bovary" (1991) which strictly brought nothing to Gustave Flaubert's novel.

So, after three failures on the trot, Chabrol turned to one of his favorite novelists, Georges Simenon hoping to find some help to boost his career again and he found it with the novel "Betty". He was so much taken with this novel that he decided to transfer it to the screen. It wasn't one of Simenon's most well-known novels but a commendable one all the same and it's easy to understand why Chabrol liked this novel so much. It assesses the portrait of an immoral woman who got a raw deal. She's like a driftwood in the throes of a river full of undertows and unbalanced by unfortunate events. A heartless mother who sent her to live with her aunt when she was young. The day she discovered her uncle having sex with a teenage girl, a loveless marriage in a bourgeois milieu whose members especially considered her as an object pregnancy so that the Etamble descendants could be assured, a scandal which obliged her to break with her upper-class family and her children. In Chabrol's work all these events are related as flashbacks and at the outset of the film, Betty is a complete drifter, wanders from café to café, is often on booze and fags (she spends a good half of the film with cigarettes and alcohol near her). In a rather sleazy bar, she's rescued by a rich widow, Laure (Stéphane Audran) who befriends with her. She also seems to be a woman with a heavy past behind her and searching for human warmth...

As Marie Trintignant once put it: "Chabrol likes these monstrous women who do terrible things with a total innocence". With this noteworthy opinion and the contents of the film, "Betty" is easy to locate in Chabrol's bushy filmography. One could regard it as the female cousin of "Violette Nozières" (1978), "une Affaire De Femmes" (1988) and "la Cérémonie" (1995). Without losing the thread of the plot, Chabrol unveils to the audience, key-elements in Betty's life which might have been watershed ones in the construction and the solidification of her numb and a little unfathomable persona. Chabrol was right not to give us available, direct solutions or weak possibilities to explain her actions and so his enigmatic heroine keeps all her mystery. To better emphasize her elusive character, the filmmaker bestowed his directing with deft, shrewd ideas. For instance, when Laure begins to speak about Mario her lover or herself, Betty doesn't appear to listen to her, she's completely immersed in her bitter memories and so, during Laure's words, the camera takes us in another time, another place like a dinner in her former bourgeois family. This kind of brainy idea tells a lot about the type of character that is Betty and also gives an inkling to the audience about her mind in disarray. And I particularly relish the very last shot which showcases her behind an aquarium whose water is unclear. It's self-explanatory...

"Betty" also provided to Chabrol another god-sent opportunity to deliver one more scathing attack on the upper-class milieu given that Betty's bourgeois family has a part of responsibility in her fall.

The two central performances command admiration and respect. Marie Trintignant and Stéphane Audran completely mesh together with easiness. For the latter, it would be the very last time she acted in a film made by her ex husband.

A compelling writing of the characters, a painstaking construction and the big efforts Chabrol put in this story of an ambiguous woman make "Betty" a real winner amid his uneven filmography. Unfortunately, his adaptations from Simenon didn't put the critics and the public on the same wavelength since the film had a fleeting life in the French theaters in spite of glowing reviews. The same mishap happened ten years ago with "les Fantômes Du Chapelier" (1982), another Simenon adaptation, inferior to "Betty". But never mind, in 1992 Chabrol found again his high artistic potential and the level will maintain itself with his two following works: the divine "l'Enfer" (1994) and "la Cérémonie" (1995).

Reviewed by jean-no 10 / 10

Upper-class boredom of a young woman

(possible spoiler here) Marie Trintignant plays Betty, a troubled girl who weds an upper-class boy, son of a general. This is not a life for her : she quickly cheats on her husband and she drinks alcohol (hidden). One day her husband and mother in law come back too early from a theatre and find Betty having sex on a couch with a saxophonist. Scandal : the mother in law says "not on this !" (she's talking about the couch !). It says quite a lot. Betty has to leave home, and even her two children - for ever. There starts the movie : Betty meets Laure (playes by the great Stéphane Audran) in a bar called "le trou" (the hole). Both are drunk. Laure takes care of Betty and a nice friendship starts between these two women... This movie is, as always with Chabrol, very good, with a good acting and always a love/hate with the upper-class people. I bought the DVD last day because I wanted to see some images of Marie Trintignant. This wonderful black-haired girl died a week ago, aged 41 : her man, a rock singer (Bertrand Cantat) beated her to death in a hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania. How sad. What we have left from Marie Trintignant is all her movies.

Reviewed by darienwerfhorst 7 / 10

Very Interesting

Psychological story of the friendship of two women and how one (and a nurse yet) comes to rescue the other.

It's a cautionary tale of the rigid social structure of a certain class of French family where children and wives are treated more like possessions than humans. Note how she isn't allowed to interact with her children..that is handled by the spotless Swiss nanny. Her husband buys her a mink coat, and rather than call it an expression of his love, he calls it an investment. No wonder she begins to drink! And yet she makes a lot of bad choices, which leads her astray from her family, which is maybe what she really wanted....

Marie T. was so sad..her eyes were so sad that I wasn't surprised to find that the actress herself had been killed. The pain in her eyes seemed almost unbearable.

I was disappointed in the seemed to just drop off with not much explanation...I know European movies are much more likely to end this way, and yet I said "Huh?"...and yet I still enjoyed it as a portrait of an increasingly obsolete segment of French society.

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