The Blue Room
Two years after screening in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Mathieu Amalric’s The Blue Room has finally arrived onto our screens, with help from online distributor MUBI. Why they have been so shy about this film’s merits is unclear: Amalric has made an atmospheric and tightly wound anti-thriller, a daylight noir whose humanity is dissected with painful forensic detail.
Amalric, himself, stars as Julien, a married man who carries out an affair with Esther (Stéphanie Cléau). We begin by hearing the sounds of them together in a hotel room, then immediately begin jumping around timelines, as we see that Julien is being told by the police and a psychologist to recount the details of his affair.
Astonishing 4:3 photography from Christophe Beaucarne sees us focus on details – a bleeding lip, a crime scene photograph – that skip by at an alarming rate. It is as if Amalric wants us to see the film as a product of memory, a collection of jigsaw pieces that could be arranged in any order. We learn that Julien has a fractious relationship with his wife Delphine (Léa Drucker) and that something suspicious has happened between Esther and her recently deceased husband. Whether Julien is complicit in such events is the nagging question that drives the narrative.
At 76 minutes, The Blue Room is refreshingly lean, though plenty of striking moments are packed into its running time. A sunset tryst in the woods and a family holiday to the beach are made all the more beautiful by an evocative score by Grégoire Hetzel, which seems to be referencing the romantic melodramas of the 1940s and 50s. Indeed, the film has so many ingredients of classic noir – murder, flashbacks, a femme fatale, a consistent nastiness – that it’s tempting to compare it to films like The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity.
Yet, by refusing to give us key details and by filtering the action through the relentless gaze of an unforgiving magistrate (Laurent Poitrenaux), Amalric makes something much less sexy, inviting us to criticise with a cool eye. The ending is inevitably an anti-climax, as it follows the realistic contours of a court case. Still, this is a smart film about the consequences of adultery, never less than interesting.
The Blue Room is released in selected cinemas on 9th September 2016.
Watch the trailer for The Blue Room here: