Betty (1992)

Marie Trintignant, Stéphane Audran, Jean-François Garreaud, Yves Lambrecht,
A drunken self-destructive woman called Betty wanders through bars and meets a man that drives her to a restaurant outside Paris called Le Trou (The Hole). She meets the middle-aged alcoholic Laure from Lyon, who is the lover of the
  • 6.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Georges Simenon, Writer:
  • Claude Chabrol, Director:
  • Marin Karmitz, Producer:

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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 Fant?mes 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).

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.

6 / 10

Cold days in Versailles

I am surprised, and a little dismayed, at how cold and passionless this adaptation of a Simenon book is. I haven't read Betty, but those works of Simenon I am familiar with don't make me reach for the thermostat the way Chabrol's film does. La veuve Couderc, Maigret et l'affaire St-Fiacre, Monsieur Hire, to name just three, have an engagement with life that is sorely lacking in this trifle. Why tell the story in fragmented style, à la Memento or Amores perros, when a straightforward sequential narration would do fine? Why use a character just to describe Betty's emotional states when we can guess at these from the visual evidence? Marie Trintignant conveys Betty's vapid, eager-to-please behaviour very well. Booze does blunt the emotions, increase or decrease aggression, make one sexually irresponsible just as we see on screen. Stéphane Audran as Laure drinks almost as much as Betty, but cannot forget she has feelings, is capable of compassion. Chabrol concentrates on satirizing the bourgeois family to the exclusion of practically everything else in the story.

6 / 10

BETTY (Claude Chabrol, 1992) **1/2

Claude Chabrol may be best-known for kicking off the Nouvelle Vague movement with LE BEAU SERGE (1958) and for being the French master of suspense; that does not mean that he dwelt exclusively in the thriller genre and, indeed, hot on the heels of Chabrol's unexpected adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's MADAME BOVARY (1991), came this oddball feminist melodrama which, a minor effort though it might be, also proves a surprisingly engaging work.

Actually, the source novel for it was the handiwork of celebrated pulp writer Georges Simenon and Chabrol's film version is buoyed by a spunky central performance from the ill-fated Marie Trintagnant (the daughter of actor Jean-Louis and director Nadine, she died in 2003 aged 41 from a cerebral haemorrhage, following a beating-up by her live-in boyfriend!) and a quietly mature one by Chabrol's former wife and frequent muse Stephane Audran.

The title character is a woman who, marrying above her station, is subsequently thrown out of her house after she gives in to her baser instincts; as a result, she takes to an aimless existence on the streets, drinking and chain-smoking her nights away in the company of strangers. Thankfully, she is picked up from the gutter by an enigmatic middle-aged woman (with a much younger companion) who installs her into her own lavish apartment and gradually helps her pick up the pieces of her broken-down life. But the innately sensuous qualities of the waif-like Betty soon catch the attention of her benefactor's boyfriend and, perhaps inevitably, tragic circumstances ensue.

The low-key qualities of BETTY are countered by Chabrol's decision to structure his film as a complex maze of flashbacks which depict (and contrast) the stuffy, ordered, aristocratic lifestyle the protagonist suffered through in her married past, versus her new, chaotic but free-spirited present state. All in all, therefore, the film can be counted as yet another feather in Chabrol's prolific and largely consistent cap.

7 / 10

Betty : A quiet film directed by Claude Chabrol.

Chabrol's true representations of women have made him a "Le Cinéaste Des Femmes".Betty signifies a change of pace for Chabrol as after years of thrillers,he has made a quiet film.Betty is a unique tale of a troubled bourgeois woman who felt that she could drown her sorrows in alcohol. Chabrol has accurately adapted Simenon novel as everything appears in a flashback.He has made it clear that he has not created neither a psychological portrait nor a moralistic drama.Betty is a collection of sharp observations on bourgeois life.She is a victim of circumstances as destiny did not favor her.Although,her marriage was based on love it didn't succeed as she was skeptical of it from the beginning.What she really wanted was companionship.Betty and Laure share a strange friendship built on mutual trust and respect.Betty's heartrending tale confirms that no woman will ever leave her family unless something tragic happens to her.