The Blue Room is a wicked little piece of neo-Hitchcock written, directed, and starring Mathieu Amalric. Co-written by Stéphanie Cléau, Amalric’s real life partner, the film has a Hitchock-like tone similar to The Birds, ominous and pristine-looking with everything placed just right and put together beautifully. Every element on the surface is elegantly composed and shiny in a way that gives it a fairytale look, hinting that terrible things are about to happen.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks that are part of a police investigation, with “Julien” (Mathieu Amalric) talking to the police, a core psychologist, and a judge about his involvement in with local murder. He relays what has happened, or rather, reconstructs what has happened. The flashbacks begins with Julien ending his 11-month affair with “Esther” (Stéphanie Cléau) when the guilt of cheating on his wife “Delphine” (Leá Druker) sets in.
There are very hot scenes in the beginning between Esther and Julien in a hotel room, “The Blue Room,” with full-frontal nudity and noises people can hear from outside the door. Julien goes from passionate lovemaking in his hotel to his ordinary marriage at home, turning away from his wife in bed as she says goodnight. Although unclear whether Delphine knows about the affair, she knows that he’s distant and preoccupied. As suspicions about her husband rise, Delphine uses their 8-year-old, health-impaired daughter “Suzanne” (Mona Jaffart) to get Julien to take them off for a beach vacation. Instead of bringing them closer together, the vacation only reinforces a distance between Esther and Julian, who no longer make love due to Julian’s lack of desire.
The crisis comes when Esther’s pharmacist husband suddenly dies, shifting the film from an eerie, ominous romance to the police procedural. The police, a psychologist, and a judge question Julien and Esther, eventually sending them to court for the murder of the pharmacist. As Julien tries to figure out what exactly happened, Esther creates a black widow spider web around him. If she can’t have him, nobody can. The first scene of the film, Esther tells Julien that he’ll never be able to get away from her, saying: Do you love me? Do you think you could live with me forever? Will you love me forever? As he’s pulling back from the 11-month affair and getting reabsorbed into the routines of his family, Esther traps him in her clutches.
The neo-Hitchcockian film based on Georges Simenon’s novel has a beautiful look and feel as clueless Julien stumbles, as many Hitchcock characters do, into something that’s much bigger than he realized. Once The Blue Room turns into a police procedural and a courtroom drama, it’s pretty perfunctory and sort of by the numbers. At a certain point in the 75-minute film, I tried to stake awake but nodded off. It certainly looks beautiful and I loved the ominous air, but in the end it doesn’t amount to much.
Review © Jan Lisa Huttner (9/16/14)
Top Photo: Mathieu Amalric as “Julien” and Stéphanie Cléau as “Esther” as their affair heats up.
Bottom Photo: The police investigation for the murder of Esther’s husband
Q: Does The Blue Room pass the Bechdel Test?