Jean-Jacques Beineix: the French auteur who brought style and substance | Movies

Throughout Margaret Thatcher’s reign in the Nineteen Eighties, British cinema was largely downbeat, caustic, political and oppositionist. However over the Channel in François Mitterrand’s France, the motion pictures had been glitzy and flashy, with a horny if superficial neon sheen: the so-called cinéma du look. No director was extra liable for this than Jean-Jacques Beineix.

He turned each famed and mocked for that colossal 1986 hit which launched the smouldering profession of its star Beatrice Dalle: Betty Blue, a steamy drama through which an aspiring author embarks on a passionate, harmful affair with Dalle’s impetuous siren, Betty. It was nominated for finest international movie at the Oscars, the Globes and the Baftas and bought 9 César nominations. However Betty Blue really gained only one César: the horribly applicable award for finest poster (an award discontinued a number of years afterwards), the iconic picture of the younger Dalle looming superbly up in the blue of deepening sunset-sky with the seaside shack starkly picked out down beneath on a glowing horizon. It was a poster that adorned 1,000,000 pupil bed room partitions and quickly the film, and Beineix himself, got here to be appeared down on as a callow Nineteen Eighties style: the legwarmers of French cinema.

However that doesn’t do justice to his audacity, power and exuberance, and to the film that made his title in 1981: Diva, a movie with a residual new wave ethos however with one thing much less political. A younger postman zooming round Paris on a moped (that key New Wave automobile) is obsessive about an opera singer, performed by Wilhelmina Wiggins Fernandez; he by accident comes into possession of a cassette tape containing a confession which incriminates a high cop, which will get muddled up together with his personal illicit bootleg cassette of the diva singing the passionate soprano aria from Alfredo Catalani’s opera La Wally, Ebben? No andrò lontana, with its window-shattering excessive word.

Beatrice Dalle in Betty Blue. {Photograph}: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock


Beineix single-handedly made this stunningly dramatic aria well-known amongst non-opera followers (to the irritation of hardcore opera buffs) like a smash hit single from an in any other case little-known album. Undoubtedly, Diva impressed the 1987 portmanteau movie Aria, through which administrators together with Jean-Luc Godard, Robert Altman, Derek Jarman, Julien Temple and Nicolas Roeg every created a brief piece to the accompaniment of a well-known aria. Aria was flash and brash, however some felt it to be a glorified arthouse model of the pop movies that had been turning into widespread by MTV in the similar period. Beineix was not, nonetheless, concerned.

After Diva, Beineix made what each admirers and detractors felt was his key auteur piece, The Moon in the Gutter, starring Nastassja Kinski as a rich, predatory girl whose future collides with a smouldering dock-worker performed by Gérard Depardieu. His followers stubbornly insisted this was Beineix’s brilliantly playful, vibrant, visually artistic French spin on the American noir style. The naysayers stated it was unendurably pretentious and preposterous; Beineix was deeply damage to be booed at its Cannes premiere.

However, final 12 months at Cannes, I considered The Moon in the Gutter as the festivalgoers had been going wild for Leos Carax’s movie Annette, his indulgent, madly bold musical fantasia composed by Sparks and starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Who can presumably doubt that Carax was influenced by Beineix’s anti-puritan flourish? Each Carax and Luc Besson owed an enormous quantity to Beineix, though it was Beineix’s unhappy destiny to have neither Besson’s enduring business clout nor Carax’s intellectual status.

In the 90s, Beineix’s star waned, maybe as a consequence of his characteristically heartfelt however inauspicious film IP5: The Island of the Pachyderms, which was coolly obtained critically and through which his iconic star Yves Montand sadly died instantly after filming his character’s dying.


Beineix was typically stated to be style over substance. However is that honest? He had nearly as a lot substance as any working director of his time, however much more style, and in actual fact a sensuous love of style. His Diva and Betty Blue should be generally known as greater than style equipment: they had been vivid, vibrant movie-making. And wonderful to think about Altman, Godard, Jarman et al successfully bowing the knee to Beineix in that Aria assortment.

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