Betty (1992)

Director: Claude Chabrol
Starring: Marie Trintignant, Stéphane Audran
Studio: Kimstim/Kino Video KS2027
Video: 16:9 enhanced, color
Audio: PCM stereo, French
Subtitles: English
Extras: Featurette by film scholar Joel Magny, Original French Trailer, Stills Gallery
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: ***

Part of a group release of many films by the French director often compared to Alfred Hitchcock, Betty is from a period when Chabrol turned his attention from stories in which male figures were the prominent characters to those in which females were at the center of the films.  The overall plot here comes from a novel by Georges Simenon about a young woman and a middle-aged woman both in love with the same man.  Over the course of the story they gradually exchange roles and identity .

We meet the alcoholic and loose Betty – who has signed away her children and left her wealthy husband – as she is brought to a bar named The Hole by a disgraced older doctor who is a drug addict with hallucinations about worms. They both fit right into the crowd at The Hole, which is described as catering to “the twisted.” There she drinks herself into a stupor and is befriended by Laure, a retired woman who is the lover of the owner of The Hole, and lives alone in a luxury hotel at Versailles – The Trianon.  Betty persists in her self-destructive mode in spite of the kindness of Laure, who has taken her in.  Flashbacks tell some of Betty’s sordid tale and it looks like she is on the road to total ruin, but eventually she betrays Laure and steals the owner of the bar.

I didn’t find any of the Hitchcockian suspense or twists in Betty, and didn’t find either actress especially beautiful, which dampened for me the intended erotic charge of some of the scenes. (Audran is Mrs. Chabrol.)  Chabrol’s Les Biches covers some of the same ground as Betty and is by far the superior film. The transfer is OK but a bit murky in some darker scenes. In fact the whole film is darker, but not in a good film noir way.

– John Sunier

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