Jean-Jacques Beineix obituary | Movies

No arthouse cinema repertory programme within the Nineteen Eighties was full with out common screenings of the stylish French thriller Diva (1981). The plot mixed opera, homicide and corruption, whereas the visible type had the kind of pizzazz extra readily related to promoting or pop movies. By the top of the identical decade, the prospect of a pupil bedsit that didn’t have on its partitions the poster for the erotic love story Betty Blue (1986) was as unthinkable as one with out Pot Noodle and patchouli oil. Each movies had been directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix, who has died aged 75 after an extended sickness.

Diva considerations Jules (Frédéric Andréi), a postal employee who makes an unlawful bootleg tape of an American opera singer (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez) well-known for refusing to permit her voice to be recorded. This cassette turns into blended up with one containing testimony incriminating a high-ranking police officer, and shortly Jules is being chased by cops and thugs alike.

Fernandez initially rejected the script, which Beineix had tailored with Jean Van Hamme from the novel by Daniel Odier, who printed it underneath the pseudonym Delacorta. “I used to be studying homicide, prostitution and medicines, and I needed nothing to do with it,” she said in 1983. “Jean-Jacques compelled me to learn it with him. Then I realised it was truly mild, like a Disney remedy of a Hitchcock movie.” She was comparatively unknown on the time, and the singer’s profile was boosted by her efficiency, which included a rendition of the aria Ebben? Ne andrò lontana from the opera La Wally.

Diva heralded the arrival of a flashy mode of film-making later termed “cinéma du look”. Response to the film from French critics, nonetheless, was hostile. “I believed I had made two movies for the worth of 1,” the director said in 2009. “My first and my final.”

Béatrice Dalle’s performance is the highlight of the erotic love story Betty Blue, 1986, the third film of Jean-Jacques Beineix.
Béatrice Dalle’s efficiency is the spotlight of the erotic love story Betty Blue, 1986, the third movie of Jean-Jacques Beineix. {Photograph}: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

His producers had been reluctant to submit Diva to the Toronto movie pageant, fearing that worldwide publicity would additional hurt the film’s repute. “What injury can we do to this image?” requested Beineix. “We’re already useless!” Stepping off the airplane in Toronto, he went straight to the cinema the place he discovered a standing ovation underway. “I believed, ‘One thing’s unsuitable. I’m in one other dimension.’”

The movie was acclaimed by worldwide critics. David Denby in New York journal praised its “rapturous pop magnificence” and likened Beineix to Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. Nonetheless taking part in in Paris after a 12 months, Diva received 4 César awards, together with the prize for greatest first movie.

The Moon within the Gutter (1983) was a textbook case of the sophomore droop. Tailored by the director and Olivier Mergault from the pulp novel by David Goodis, whose work had beforehand been filmed by François Truffaut and Sam Fuller, it was a grandiose affair which prioritised slick, post-modern artifice over actors (together with Gérard Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski) and made solely the feeblest reference to audiences.

The poster for Jean-Jaques Beineix’s Betty Blue.
The poster for Jean-Jaques Beineix’s Betty Blue. {Photograph}: Film Stills/Alamy

Critics scoffed, together with Pauline Kael, who had discovered his debut “genuinely glowing” however now declared its follow-up “excruciatingly foolish.” After the response to Diva, which Beineix referred to as a “fantastic dream, the place I used to be flying on the wings of victory”, he skilled a sudden fall. “Bang, bang, bang: I’m shot down. It was very scary.”

He recovered with Betty Blue, which he tailored from Philippe Dijan’s novel 37 °2 le matin, about Zorg (Jean-Hugues Anglade), a house-painter and aspiring novelist, and his passionate, risky girlfriend. The gifted 21-year-old newcomer Béatrice Dalle beat Isabelle Adjani to the title position.

This tale of amour fou opens with an prolonged intercourse scene filmed in a single take and starting in large shot earlier than progressively shifting in nearer onto the lovers. Within the script, the scene had occurred 10 minutes into the film however Beineix modified his thoughts within the enhancing room. “I realised: That’s the bottom of every thing.” He regarded it as “a political assertion” however Dalle complained that he had not insisted on a closed set throughout her nude scenes. “I nonetheless have a grudge with Beineix about that,” she mentioned in 2013. “[The crew] all stayed there, like they had been on the set of an X-rated film. Appalling. Horrible.”

Her untamed efficiency is the spotlight of a movie which additionally boasts luminous cinematography by Jean-François Robin. It was he who steered the color scheme away from the refrigerated blues of Diva and The Moon within the Gutter by mentioning that this was “a solar and sweat story” which could profit from resembling “Kodachrome slides shot by amateurs. Vacation snapshots, heat and sunny.”

The movie takes a quite ugly flip – Zorg’s literary prospects enhance solely as soon as Betty is in a psychiatric establishment, the place he lastly smothers her with a pillow. It had sufficient admirers, although, to earn Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe nominations for greatest overseas language movie, and to warrant the discharge 5 years later of a director’s minimize extending the working time from two hours to 3.

Frédéric Andréi in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva, 1981. The movie heralded the arrival of a flashy mode of filmmaking later termed ‘cinéma du look’.
Frédéric Andréi in Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva, 1981. The film heralded the arrival of a flashy mode of filmmaking later termed ‘cinéma du look’. {Photograph}: Assortment Christophel/Alamy

Beineix was born in Paris, the son of Madeline (nee Maréchal) and Robert Beineix, an insurance coverage salesman. He was educated on the Lycée Carnot and the Lycée Condorcet, each in Paris. He studied medication, then stop to develop into an assistant director to film-makers reminiscent of Jean Becker, Claude Berri and Claude Zidi. He was second assistant director on Jerry Lewis’s controversial drama The Day the Clown Cried (1972), by which Lewis performs an entertainer main Jewish kids to the Nazi gasoline chambers; it has by no means been launched, and Lewis stipulated that it can’t be proven till 2024. Beineix’s solely directing credit score previous to Diva was the quick Le Chien de Monsieur Michel (1977).

Within the wake of his success with Diva, he was courted by US studios. “At first, Hollywood noticed me as some form of unique puppet,” he said. A vampire comedy he wrote for Paramount was by no means made, a contract with the producer Edward R Pressman got here to nought, and he declined affords to work as a employed hand. “The privilege of being a French director is that you’re mainly free to do what you need. The catastrophe is that you simply don’t perceive that the remainder of the world doesn’t work like this.”

After Betty Blue, curiosity in his movies started to wane outdoors France. Roselyne and the Lions (1989) was a meandering love story a few pair of circus staff. The whimsical IP5 (1992) featured Yves Montand’s remaining efficiency. Beineix moved into documentaries, amongst them Locked-In Syndrome (1997), which informed the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke which left him unable to speak besides by blinking one eyelid. Beineix turned down the invitation to make the dramatised model, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was directed in 2007 by Julian Schnabel.

His final fiction movie was Mortal Switch (2001), a macabre farce starring Anglade as a psychoanalyst who should eliminate a affected person’s physique; Beineix ploughed $2m of his personal cash into the venture. In 2004, he co-wrote the vampire-themed graphic novel L’Affaire Du Siècle; a second instalment arrived in 2006 alongside along with his first quantity of memoir, Les Chantiers de la Gloire, which ran to 835 pages. A novel, Toboggan, was printed in 2020.


Beineix described himself in 2006 as “conceited, a provocateur. I have to be a little bit bit in love with failure as a result of I provoke it. It occurs that when you’re afraid to be beloved, you encourage hostility. It’s perverse.”

He’s survived by his spouse, Agnès, and daughter, Frida.

Jean-Jacques Beineix, movie director, born 8 October 1946; died 13 January 2022

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