372 le matin (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


This film was also known as Betty Blue in its North American release. Note, however, that Betty Blue and 372 might well be considered two separate movies. Betty Blue is 121 minutes long in NTSC format, and 372 is 184 minutes in PAL format, which is equivalent to 191 minutes in NTSC or in the theaters, because of the 4% distortion in PAL. The difference between them is, therefore, 70 minutes of film. That difference is pretty much a feature length film of its own.

I have not seen the short version, but I discussed this film with my friend Mick Locke on the phone and mentioned to him that Jean-Hugues Anglade must have set the all-time record for male nudity by a single person in a mainstream film, having done a half dozen lengthy frontal scenes, and having been stark naked on camera, willie to the wind, for a least a half an hour of the film's running time. Mick Locke replied that I was all wet, and that Anglade's French fry had only been seen briefly once in passing.  It turned out, of course, that Mick had seen the North American version, so you know a good chunk of what was in the 70 missing minutes - about 29 minutes of the ol' pocket fisherman, Gallic style. Anglade's duration of full-frontal nudity is matched by his co-star Beatrice Dalle, and she also performs other scenes topless or without pants.

I guess my first observation must be that if you are really interested in screen nudity, you should just skip the short version and wait for the right one to come along, for two reasons:

1. because the 70 missing minutes must include a vast amount of nudity - maybe the whole damned 70 minutes, for all I know

2. because the nudity is extremely beautiful, quite explicit, and magnificently photographed. I'm not one to use the word "magnificent" casually. If you like the type of film with beautiful, highly saturated, painterly hues abetted by lots of colored filters and other lighting gimmicks, this is one of the best I've ever seen. Imagine the look of Amelie, with the skin content of Emmanuelle. If I were forced to name now, off the top of my head, the best photographed film with near-continuous nudity, I would have to say it is this film, or The Lover, or Sirens. In other words, the beautiful nudity beautifully photographed is a major reason to see this film, so do not settle for the short version.

So how is the movie itself?

Flawed, but pretty damned good, actually. It was a commercial hit in France despite its three hour running time, which doesn't so much indicate the quality of the film as the type. It was not intended to be an "empty theater" film for intellectuals, but a popular bit of mass entertainment. Think Amelie, not Andrei Rublyov.

NUDITY REPORT

Jean-Hugues Anglade and Beatrice Dalle are stark naked and seen from all angles throughout the film, in sexual and non-sexual scenes.

Anglade pays Zork, a drifter who starts the film working as a painter of beach-side bungalows. He never gets too much painting done, because he and Betty can never get enough of each other physically, and they bonk day and night. As time passes, Betty discovers that the putatively unambitious Zork has actually been using all of his spare time to write a novel. Betty insists that the novel is genius, and that he must get it published, so she takes some dramatic steps to get Zork to move to the city and work on his writing career.

The middle third of the film is about the quest for publication and Betty's increasingly irrational reactions to his rejection slips.

For, you see, the "hook" of the film is that Betty is seriously unbalanced. Zork sees her gradually drifting away from him, and doesn't know what to do when her moments of lucidity come less and less frequently.

That's about all there is to the entire three hour film.  Zork's love for Betty forces him to adapt to her mania and depression, until he has to decide to leave her or institutionalize her , or .... what???

As you can probably guess, the film has very little content to fill up three hours, so it relies on atmosphere to carry it - vivid images, wailing saxophones, a somber and evocative piano duet which becomes the recurring thematic music.

Your reaction to the film will probably depend on how much plot you require. If you are satisfied with spectacular images, mood music, and the profound characterization of two people (to the exclusion of other characters - these two are just about always on screen), then you'll love it. There are many people who have commented at IMDb that this is one of the great romantic films, and several people said it is the one film they love best. I think that a lot of other people will find that the three hours pass very slowly indeed, despite the beauty of the images, words,  music, and nudity.

One last point. You should see it if you have ever been in love with a deeply troubled woman. You other guys can also relate to it, because all relationships include some elements of the highs and lows pictured here. When you have been with someone for a very long time, you might well become melancholy thinking about the way it used to be when you first fell in love and couldn't get enough of each other's company, as compared to the comfortable tedium of your life today.

Region 1 DVD info from Amazon - not yet released

Region 2 DVD info from Amazon France

  • many features, full-length commentary, and the full-length version (see link), but no English sub-titles .

Imagine how intense it must be for those in love with a mentally unstable women. (And I count myself in that group.) Those shifts of attitude can occur not over years, but hours, and for reasons you can't fathom. You just want to scream at her, "remember yesterday, when we were so happy, and had such a great day?". Unfortunately, that never helps. You can't get her to return to sanity by snapping your fingers and saying "OK, insane time is over now. Back to the rational world." So you live with intense emotional highs and lows. If she is a classic manic-depressive type, she gives you the greatest moments of your life, and the worst - sometimes within hours of each other.

That's a big part of what this film is about, and if you can relate to it on a personal level, this film could affect you very deeply.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 1.5/4. He is definitely not on the film's bandwagon. He wrote, "Reviews have been written debating the movie's view of madness, of feminism, of the travail of the artist. They all miss the point. "Betty Blue" is a movie about Beatrice Dalle's boobs and behind, and everything else is just what happens in between the scenes where she displays them."

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.1/10. Men are Ok with it at 7.0, but women go ga-ga for this film at 7.7/10 - classic range. (7.7 is a high enough score to make the all-time top 250)
  • It grossed only $2 million in t he USA, but was a hit in France.
  • It was nominated for nine Cesars and an Oscar.

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. If you like romantic films in the Gallic mode (as erotic as romantic, yet profoundly and inevitably doomed), this is one of the classics.

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