One such film is The Blue Room, based on La Chambre Bleu, a short novel by Georges Simenon. As well as directing, Almalric takes the lead onscreen as Julien, a man who spends his days selling tractors, feeling unhappy, and having an affair with Esther, a femme-fatale and pharmacist (interestingly played by Almaric’s off-screen wife Stéphanie Cléau).
A passionate infidelity becomes a police investigation against the backdrop of an outraged town: it’s an intriguingly seamy premise for any film, and the opening scene doesn’t disappoint, with swelling orchestral music, impassioned groans, and sumptuous shots of bloodied sheets. Julien pads to the window, speculating with his lover about a life together, and stands sweaty and naked in full view of the busy village. It’s clear that what’s romantic within the grey-blue sheen of the room doesn’t fare so well under the bright lights of the outside world.
In this way, the structure of the film is established: the intimacy of the lover’s pillow talk is interspersed by an autopsy of the affair and its possibly murderous consequences – the privacy of the blue room is interrupted by flash-forwards to police interviews that unapologetically dissect Julien and Esther’s interactions (‘did she bite you often?’ goes one question).
Tonally, Almalric’s film sits the audience in the chill of the interrogation room rather than in the heat of the adulterer’s boudoir. Slick and quiet, the film unfolds in confusing fragments, leaving you scrambling to decipher truth from falsehood. A twist on the classic ‘whodunit’, The Blue Room is more of an ‘oh-no-what-he-done’.
The subtlety of Almalric’s film is both its brilliance and its downfall. The perfect antidote to slick law dramas with neat resolutions and infallible heroes, The Blue Room also fails to give the audience anyone to empathise with. The rather opaque characters and cool style mean that when the crime is revealed and the verdict announced, the feeling is oddly anti-climactic, vindicating the viewer who guessed the truth but ultimately leaving them out in the cold.
|The Blue Room film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
09 Sep 16 – 09 Nov 16, Times vary
|£determined by cinema
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