Jean-Hugues Anglade plays Zorg (yup, that’s his name), a handyman living in a beach-front house, scribbling away quietly in his spare time. Not so quiet is his tempestuous affair with Betty (Béatrice Dalle in her debut), whose passions overwhelm both of them. First, she moves in on him with no warning. Then, when she discovers his writing, she decides they must move to Paris so he can have a career as a writer. To make sure Zorg complies, she burns his house to the ground. Once in Paris, her plans for him fall apart, and so, bit by bit, does she.
Writer/director Jean-Jacques Beineix has both audience and characters sweltering from the get-go, setting the tone for another French tale of amour fou. Angalde and Dalle inhabit their characters perfectly (though one might be forgive for wondering what exactly Zorg sees in Betty, beyond the physically obvious). The film is stylish and dramatic, and if, at 185 minutes, it outstays its welcomd, it doesn’t do so by much.
I wrote the above two paragraphs back when I reviewed the DVD release of the film. What I said about the movie then still holds. But this isn’t the movie I reviewed then. The “Original Theatrical Release” is not something to boast about: it runs 116 minutes. So this is less than two thirds of Beineix’s vision. There might be a director’s cut Blu-ray release down the line, so welcome to the double dip. In the meantime, avoid this truncated version.
This is the only aspect where the Blu-ray version trumps the DVD, but that should be taken for granted, and is the very least one would expect (and even then, the DVD version is visually superior in one respect). So yes, the picture looks great, and is even sweatier than before. The colours are strong, and the (abundant) flesh tones are excellent. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, but the film’s original aspect is 1.66:1, so there is some loss of visual information (and the DVD is in 1.66:1). The AVC codex’s bit-rate fluctuates a lot from just under 14 Mbps to almost 30, but most of the time comes in at about 20 Mpbs.
The sound is a mere 2.0 stereo, which is hardly taking full advantage of the format, and sounds a bit harsh. Yes, we’re back in 1986, but all the same, the movie sounds a bit older than it has to, methinks. Still, the dialogue is clear and undistorted. It’s a clean track, just not a hugely prepossessing one, and there are no surround elements.
“Passion, Life, Cinema”: (55:16) An in-depth interview with Beineix, conducted by Tim Rhys of MovieMaker Magazine. Given the enormous love for the medium that the director has, and how clearly that love comes through in this interview, it’s all the more disappointing that it must do so on a disc with such a compromised version of his film.
The interview is good, but that just isn’t good enough. If you own the director’s cut DVD, there is no reason to pick this up. And if you don’t, there is still no reason to grab this. Wait and pick up the expanded version when it inevitably arrives.