Chloe Walker, Marketing Manager at Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford gives us a preview of The Blue Room, this week’s Discover Tuesdays With MUBI presentation.
Director: Mathieu Amalric.
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Léa Drucker, Stéphanie Cléau. UK 2014. 76 mins.
Mathieu Amalric is best known to UK audiences for his acting, having appeared in films like Quantum Of Solace – as the Bond villain Dominic Greene – and The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, in which he starred as Jean-Dominique Bauby, a magazine editor suffering from locked-in syndrome.
So it may come as surprise that The Blue Room is not Amalric’s first directorial credit, but his fifteenth. Working from a novel by famed French author Georges Simenon, the film follows Julien (Amalric), the married representative of a farming tools company, who has been having an affair with Esther (Stéphanie Cléau), the wife of the local pharmacist. From the beginning of the film, we know that Julien ends up in police custody, but it’s not until the end that we learn why.
The Blue Room is a story told in fragments. It’s as if Amalric has placed the narrative on separate pieces of confetti, thrown them up in the air, and filmed them as they come swirling down, crossing paths with each other in a myriad of combinations until they reach the ground.
It sounds like complete chaos, and if it had come from a different, less experienced director, the film could well have turned out that way. Under Amalric’s assured hand, however, the different narrative pieces are guided carefully towards the shattering conclusion. The fragmentary approach also adds a layer of mystery to the film: it invites you to be a detective and use the clues to work out the crime.
Cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne sustains the mystery. He shoots in icy blues and chilly greys, only heightening his palette at moments of extreme passion: as the lovers meet again for the first time in decades in the forest, or engage in a risky embrace in front of an open window in the eponymous blue room. Grégoire Hetzel’s lustrous score, in its occasional impactful appearances, further underlines these moments.
All three lead performances are subtle and restrained – it’s the style that is the star here, not the actors. Stéphanie Cléau – who co-wrote the film’s screenplay with Amalric – plays Esther as dangerously, scarily cold. It’s Amalric, however, who sticks in your mind. The weight of his fear and guilt is etched on his face; despite everything, you have sympathy for him, which is quite a feat.
Small but perfectly formed, The Blue Room is a cinematic puzzle that’s a pleasure to solve.
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