Patrice Chereau directs and co-writes this historical French epic melodrama.

Based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas and set in Paris in 1572, this tells the story of real characters and events during the reign of Charles IX, specifically the powerplay between the Catholics (the monarchy) and the protestants (the Huguenots).

With such a rich history of the monarchy filled with intrigue, drama, betrayal and murder it stands to reason that the French would do justice to the material.

Catherine De Medici played with scheming depth by Virna Lisi marries off her daughter, Margot (the stunning Isabelle Adjani) to the Huguenot, Henri De Navarre (another brilliant performance by Daniel Auteuil) in order to broker a peace deal but when Catherine organises the St Bartholemew Day Massacre, chaos ensues. Margot, who does not love her betrothed, begins an affair with the handsome soldier; La Mole (Vincent Perez) as political intrigue, plotting and power play ensues.

Cyrano De Bergerac came out 4 years earlier and set the bar high for well-made, historical, French films. The cast are all excellent and are let down by the slightly pedestrian way that the story is told. It comes across as melodrama and reminds one of an historical television drama. When I first saw this in 1994, I was enamoured by the world and the intrigue as well as the acting. Seeing it over 20 years later, the holes become more apparent.

Special mention must go to Jean-Hughes Anglade (Betty Blue, Braquo) who plays the weak king, Charles IX. His journey is by far the most interesting which is due to his powerhouse performance.

If you’re a fan of the historical epic, then check this out, it’s markedly better than most of the recent fare.






“C’est le vent, Betty”

In 1986, this film poster was on the bedroom walls of many young students.
It was immediately iconic.
Beatrice Dalle, the stunning actress reminiscent of Sophia Loren and classic Hollywood set temperatures on fire in this stunning movie about love, life and madness.

Before it was released it was deemed too long for the cinema so was cut from its original running time of approx 180 mins to 120 mins. 5 years later, the director Jean-Jacques Beineix put that straight and released his Version Integrale (Complete Version), the full cut of the film he always intended to be seen.

Not explicitly an ‘un amour fou’ yet filled with all the ingredients, this beautifully tragic tale of love, life and mental illness between Betty (Dalle) and Zorg (Jean-Hughes Anglade) is a film that begs to be seen. If you haven’t seen yet, now’s the time.

When it was released the sex and nudity was the big topic of conversation but, 28 years later, although still plenty, is never graphic. The version integrale has a lot more nudity equality than the original cinema version with Anglade balancing it out. It is natural and definitely non-exploitative. When you compare it to some of the other films coming out of America in the 80’s (Basic Instinct, anyone?) it is far less offensive.

What occurs now, watching it after all these years, is how stunningly it is shot, acted and directed. There is a sensitivity and love for the characters that Beineix has clearly drawn. Dalle and Anglade give possibly career best performances and are backed up wonderfully by a plethora of French character actors.  Consuelo De Haviland as Betty’s best friend, Lisa and Gerard Darmon as her boyfriend, Eddy are both brilliant, giving balance to the drama of Betty & Zorg’s relationship. Jacques Mathou and Clementine Celarie as the butcher and his wife with marital problems, Vincent Lindin and Raoul Billerey as two local police officers provide some brilliantly absurd humour as does Jean-Pierre Bisson, also a policeman and rejected writer. Dominique Pinon also turns up as a small time drug dealer who wants to support his surfing dream. All these petites vignettes allow the story of Betty and Zorg to breathe freely and feel thoroughly fleshed out. There are some absolute gems here including the olive tasting/ tequila rapido scene which is pretty much a perfect scene.

This is a classic film; nearly 30 years after its initial release it truly stands the test of time as a brilliant piece of art, enjoyable, passionate and tragic.

The original French title 37⁰2 Le Matin refers to the normal morning temperature of a pregnant woman.

The first line of narration is:

“I had known Betty for a week. We made love every day. The forecast was for storms.”

An incredibly prophetic opening to an amazing film that has stood the test of time officially making it a classic.