Dr. Donna Copeland’s
THE BLUE ROOM
France’s The Blue Room couldn’t be hitting American cinemas at a more opportune time with David Fincher’s Gone Girl proving the adult thriller is more popular than ever. The Blue Room is based on the novel Georges Simenon and directed, written and starring Mathieu Amalric (The Grand Budapest Hotel). The opening frame is laden with a dramatic musical score and sex. Amalric uses no disguise or American type sensors when depicting the love scenes or the nudity. The Blue Room isn't shy when it comes to the human body, but very conscious in the cinematography, as if to say “it’s just nudity,” as the French might.
We are introduced to Julien (Mathieu) and Delphine (Lea Drucker), who are having an affair in a bedroom painted blue. It has been going on for 11 months and they have met 8 separate times. Delphine is married to the local pharmacist and Julien is married to Esther (Stephanie Cleau) and has a daughter he loves very much. Flash forward to present day and both Julien and Delphine are incarcerated for murder. Through questioning from the case investigator, Julien must constantly recount the actions and events that led up to the murder as he professes his innocence.
Like Gone Girl, The Blue Room doesn’t promote itself as a sexual thriller; yes, there is sex in the film, but that’s not the focus of the story. Also like Gillian Flynn’s novel, the screenplay here takes us inside the mind of the male perspective. The Blue Room, however, is a short, unexpansive thriller like Flynn & Fincher’s adaptation. We never get the scope or development of the characters; this is more like a peak of the sexual power of the dominating female. There is certainly a mystery here of who did what to whom as the script keeps much of the details hidden until the end.
The film is strongest in the first half, when everything begins to unravel the closer we get to what should be a suspense-filled conclusion. However, I lost interest because the depth of characters never hooked me; they felt ultimately like cardboard cutouts. Maybe the dialogue is lost in translation or the casting was off, but I think the biggest issue here is the script and the minimization. I walked away feeling as if I had read a shallow article about the events happening here with a few pretty pictures included for my mind and nothing else.
Final Thought – Lacks elaboration and detail, script to blame.
By: Dustin Chase
Based on a 1964 novel by Belgain Georges Simenon, The Blue Room takes a rather novel approach to telling a story. It opens with a couple in bed with brief exchanges of conversation, primarily Esther (Stephanie Cleau) prodding Julien (Mathieu Amalric) to express his feelings toward her and make a commitment, but his answers are rather noncommittal. She has bitten his lip, and inquires about whether he is afraid of her. When he sees out the window that her husband is approaching the hotel, he bolts.
The film follows him home to his family, then soon after jumps ahead to Julien being questioned by an officer about his activities during the past year, but we are not told why. Most of the film continues in that vein; the questioning interspersed with flashbacks of the lovers’ relationship and Julien’s relationship with his family. Curiously, we get little about Esther and her husband until the very end. Gradually it becomes apparent that death and possibly murder are a part of the story.
The director, Mathieu Amalric, who plays the part of Julien, and Stephanie Cleau, who plays Esther, wrote the screenplay based on the novel, which, I believe, follows a similar format of jumping backward and forward in time and inserting relevant bits of information primarily during the investigation. I get the impression the viewer is expected to draw conclusions from the questions and responses, but Julien is rather terse, so watching the film is a little like being on a jury, without prosecution or defense arguments until the very end.
The Blue Room was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes this year, but the film has received mixed reviews in the U.S. (IMDB 6.4, Metacritic 71%, Rotten Tomatoes, 90%), perhaps because so much of it takes place at the prosecutor’s office after Julien is arrested, and perhaps also because his responses to questions are so noncommittal and bland. In a few scenes with his family and in town, he does demonstrate that he has a temper.
If you like to figure out whodunit puzzles, you may very well like The Blue Room.
By Donna R. Copeland