Nikita – Betty Blue – tape 1363

A gallic-themed tape now, with two French movies to (possibly) enjoy.

First Nikita or La Femme Nikita as it’s sometimes known. It’s a Palace Pictures release, which usually meant something interesting in the 80s. I always liked their title ident.

Palace Pictures

Directed by Luc Besson, Nikita starts with a gang of drug addicts breaking into a pharmacy, being surprised by the owner and the police, and having a huge gunfight. Anne Parillaud is Nikita, who spends the whole gunfight sitting under a counter, completely out of it, until a policeman finds her, and she casually shoots him in the head.

Anne Parillaud

An interview at the police station doesn’t go well. The officer questioning her casually backhands her, knocking her to the floor, and then gives her a pencil to write her name on a form. So she sticks the pencil through his hand. She’s not a nice person.

She’s sentenced to Life in prison, but then she’s taken by a shadowy government organisation who fake her suicide, then tell her she can train to ‘serve her country’. She’s looked after by Tchéky Karyo as ‘Bob’, who’s given a limited time to turn her into an agent.

Tcheky Karyo

Assisting him is Jeanne Moreau, who gives her make-up tips and tells her her greatest weapon is her femininity.

Anne Parillaud and Jeanne Moreau

Her first job is to shoot some people in a restaurant and escape. There’s a nice twist when her given escape route, a small window in the women’s toilet, is bricked up, so she has to improvise. Being a restaurant, Besson couldn’t resist a shootout in the kitchen.

In The Kitchen

Her test assignment having gone so well, she’s released from the training centre, and left to live by herself for a time. She falls in love with literally the first man she meets, operating the checkout at the local supermarket, Jean-Hugues Anglade.

Jean Hugues Anglade

There’s a nice passage of time transition between her new, barely furnished apartment, and some time later when it’s tidy, decorated and lived-in.

After six months of ordinary life she has her first job – to dress up as a chambermaid and deliver room service to a hotel room that’s under surveillance. That’s it.

She and her boyfriend have a dinner party and invite Karyo, as he’s desperate to meet anyone from her life, so she tells him Karyo is her uncle. As an engagement present, he gives them tickets to Venice.

But it’s not just a holiday, and she’s soon put into play.

A very big gun

They have a similar scene to this int he US remake The Assassin, but there, the conversation they have is the boyfriend proposing marriage, which, as I pointed out, was a ludicrous thing to do. In this, their conversation (or rather, his) is more prosaic, but strangely that makes the scene more believable, since you probably would have a conversation with your girlfriend through a locked door, and if you didn’t get a reply you might get a bit stroppy. By upping the stakes of the conversation, the US remake sacrifices realism.

The next job isn’t quite so smooth. A code word is changed by the security of the target, so the organisation send in Victor the Cleaner, played by Jean Reno. For a cleaner he sure seems to kill a lot of people.

Jean Reno

The mission is a mess, and Reno ends up dead. Karyo comes to her apartment to deal with it. By this time, Anglade knows what she’s been doing. There’s a weird broadcast glitch here, definitely not a recording glitch.

But the two men agree to let her go safely. Which is nice of them.

This is an effective thriller, with good action sequences. It’s not helped by the score by Eric Serra, who really shouldn’t try to score action movies, as he just can’t make his music fit. He similarly botched Goldeneye. It’s nice (and rare at this time) to have the film presented letterboxed.

After this, we’re straight into Betty Blue. As is Jean Hugues Anglade, who also appears here, with Beatrice Dallé, infamously having sex in the film’s very first shot. He’s obviously got a way with women.

He has a job doing repairs for a lot of beach houses. She got fired from her waitressing job because the owner tried to grope her. So now they’re painting the beach houses.

Jean Hugues Anglade and Beatrice Dalle

But Betty hates his boss, and eventually she sets fire to the shack and they travel to Paris. He’s written a novel which she loves, but he’s not so sure it’s any good.

A friend in Paris gives them jobs serving in his pizza parlour. But Betty isn’t a good waitress, and gets mad with a customer, stabbing her with a fork. Then, to calm her down, Anglade starts slapping her. It all seems very old fashioned and gallic.

Publishers aren’t falling over themselves to publish his book. In fact, it seems he might be the worst writer in the world.

Bad review

Betty doesn’t take this rejection lying down, and visits the publisher to attack him. To be honest, I think these ludicrously vitriolic rejection letters are symptomatic of a film which has no basis in any reality. No publisher would send a rejection like that no matter how bad your submission was. Perhaps it’s silly of me to even expect realism from this movie, as I don’t think that’s what it’s about.

The story meanders, with Betty growing more and more disturbed, with him unable to see it, and it ends with her having poked an eye out, committed to a mental institution, and then smothered by Anglade.

This film annoyed me when I first saw it, and it annoys me more now. The way films treat mental illness is rarely enlightening, and here everything seems to stem from the characters’ refusal to recognise a serious problem, and then, when she’s actually getting treatment, the film’s position is that the treatment must therefore be barbaric, so she’s better off dead. They basically want to use the ending of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest without having the context to make it work.

Not one of my favourites.

After this, the recording continues briefly with the start of Home Is Where The Heart Is before stopping shortly after the film starts.

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2 comments

  1. Eric Serra shouldn’t score ANY movies (honestly, I always preferred Bill Conti’s music for the US edit to “The Big Blue.” Conti’s Bond score and is better than Serra’s as well).

  2. I like Betty Blue, the director’s cut anyway, but I wouldn’t say anything in the cinema du look approached real life, it was all about the style and going over the top with it. Plus it introduced us to La Grande Bouche, who has been an entertaining presence in movies for a while now.

    I wonder why Nikita was so-called? After the Soviet leader or after the Elton John song? Presumably that was about a man, it’s a man’s name.

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