REVIEW: The Blue Room

11 11 2014

The Blue RoomMathieu Amalric’s directorial venture “The Blue Room” is cobbled together from some fairly familiar elements: adulterous lovers, ongoing deceit, crimes of passion, to name a few.  But like many a successful film, the components themselves matter less than their arrangement.

Amalric is quite the visual stylist, a skill he could easily have absorbed from some of the great filmmakers with whom he has collaborated over the years (Julian Schnabel, Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg).  “The Blue Room” is a carefully constructed collage of image and sound, compellingly edited to gently pivot between past and present.  Each shot hums with equal parts mystery and beauty.

The film clocks in at a lean 76 minutes, yet that is more than enough time for Amalric to provide an adaptation of Georges Simenon’s novel that feels complete enough for the price of admission.  The level of intrigue does start to drop off some at the back half of “The Blue Room,” though, as the police interrogation and criminal trial of the lovers moves from a framing device to the film’s main storyline.  Still, Amalric keeps things interesting through the shrouding and obfuscating of narrative truth.

“The Blue Room” doles out information on a need-to-know basis, not immediately declaring what crime the lovers have committed, who is under suspicion, or even who the victim is.  Moreover, the motives and allegiances of uneasily married Julien (Amalric, in front of the screen) and his mistress, the unhappily wedded Esther (Stéphanie Cléau), are always murkily identified at best.

Amalric’s purposeful indeterminacy extends as far as his portrayal of their sexual encounters.  If their moaning is audible, Amalric shows shots of the locale rather than the entwining of their bodies.  If they are visibly making love, the soundtrack reflects an entirely different noise.  These half-truths in “The Blue Room” eventually add up to something just short of complete illumination – but far greater than the average cinematic affair.  B2halfstars

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