He was a filmmaker-poet not always appreciated at his fair value in France. Jean-Jacques Beinex, the director of 37°2 died of leukemia at the age of 75.
“Is this the first time we’ve seen each other in the light?” Béatrice Dalle aka Betty stands in the doorway, an evocative smile on the corner of her lips. The blissful gaze of Jean-Hugues Anglade (aka Zorg), sitting in front of a saucepan of chili, barely hides his admiration for this woman: the very embodiment of sensuality. A warm, comforting light bathes the sandy bungalows of Gruissan… The scene is interspersed with long, languorous tracking shots. These two young people are going completely crazy for each other and Jean-Jacques Beineix’s camera transcribes it wonderfully. 37 ° 2 in the morning is an incredible romance in the form of a road-trip, a weathered postcard that made an entire generation fantasize.
The French filmmaker died of leukemia on Thursday, at the age of 75. The announcement was made the next day, by his brother, to our colleagues at Agence France-Presse.
“Zorg and Betty are orphans” comments the main actress of the film on her personal Instagram account. In 1986, Béatrice Dalle was still an unknown: it was Dominique Besnehard, legendary casting director who spotted the young punk and made her the Betty of Philippe Djian’s novel. It’s a revelation. But the actress is not the only star revealed in the film: Jean-Jacques Beinex will become a leading director thanks to his adaptation of 37°2.
To be quite honest, the name of the filmmaker had already been known for several years when the film was released in 1986. Since the beginning of the 1980s, he had already made a short film which won an award at Trouville and two films which also made talk a lot about them. Diva, first released in 1981, whose neon aesthetic deeply divided critics. The film achieved a mediocre score in theaters, but it made a lot of noise: at the 1982 Césars, it won four trophies including Best First Film. Beinex then became the precursor of a new genre and paved the way for other filmmakers, including Luc Besson.
For his second feature film, The moon in the gutter, he tours with Victoria Abril and Gérard Depardieu. The aesthetics of its mise-en-scène earned it (once again) criticism and the film did not attract crowds either. The story will be very different for the adaptation of 37°2 in the morning.
With over 3.6 million admissions in 1986, it is the greatest commercial success of the filmmaker (it even climbed into the Top 10 best hits of the year at the French box office). The feature film was distinguished by a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 1987 Oscars and was also nominated nine times for the Césars (it only won the statuette for Best Poster).
Thereafter, he will direct three other films including IP5: the island of pachyderms, Yves Montand’s latest film. Like his character, the actor died of a heart attack two weeks before the end of filming. The absence of its main interpreter is felt in the film and Beinex will be accused of having overworked his actor. It will be absent from dark rooms for almost a decade, until the release of Deadly Transfer in 2001.
During his long crossing of the desert, he made several documentaries for television. Documentaries that he produces under the label of his own production company, Cargos Films. Since the early 2000s, the filmmaker had been quite discreet and only occasionally appeared at international festivals. He has also directed several Parisian plays and published a book, The toboggan, in 2020.
The director was 75 years old, he was fighting leukemia.