"O! for a muse of fire." Carousel music segues into a flesh-bound tableau, a slow dolly-in as the passionate couple humps away under the Mona Lisa, framed by beaded curtains. Zorg (Jean-Hughes Anglade) is a blithe beachfront painter, Betty (Béatrice Dalle) is Catherine from Jules et Jim resurrected, given the same awed-horrified voiceover treatment ("She couldn't bear immobility ... The world is too fucking small for her"). They enjoy each other's carnality lavishly, "the forecast was for storms": In a frenzy Betty throws out his belongings and torches his shack ("She loves housework"), as a waitress she negotiates a crabby customer with a fork. She unearths Zorg's voluminous manuscript mid-tantrum, reads it in one sitting and declares her beloved an undiscovered genius, though when criticism drags reality in ("Amusing, but your style is unbearable") she slashes a Gallic Rex Reed's cheek with a comb. Jean-Jacques Beineix's rollicking joke on l'amour et la mort is fixed as a boiling pot that keeps spilling over. Zorg and Betty are contrasted to two other couples, the gal-pal with her hipster beau (Consuelo De Havilland and Gérard Darmon) and the store owner with an ignored, aroused wife (Jacques Mathou and Clémentine Célarié), but the road to madness is their own. The garbage man who tears into a mattress with his hook hand and the highway cop misty with paternal solidarity are but two samples of Beineix's comic ease, the bogus pregnancy that unmoors the heroine's psyche attests to his mercurial juggling of moods. The trajectory flows in a lambent pop style (Betty in a scarlet dress sitting on a lemon car under a cobalt sky), warm to the touch and scarily intimate, and with an authentic sexy-scary shape-shifter in Dalle. Cherchez la femme is the theme, Demme's Something Wild its sole American equivalent. Cinematography by Jean-François Robin. With Vincent Lindon, Jean-Pierre Bison, and Dominique Pinon.
--- Fernando F. Croce