By Anthony Zangrillo
In a world of dramatized French eroticism, actor/director Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and The Butterfly”), explores the limits of human nature in his latest film, “The Blue Room.” Adapted from Georges Simenon’s novel of the same name, the film struggles to maintain a clear and compelling plot. Unfortunately, Amalric’s desire to make the film stand out as an art piece is a burden on the story itself.
“The Blue Room” tells the tale of lovers, Julien (Amalric) and Esther (Stéphanie Cléau) whose passionate love scenes are one of the film’s key strengths. The plot unfolds as a nonlinear narrative, jumping around to the point of confusion while Julien falls deeper and deeper into a dazed state. As his affair with Esther develops and the noose tightens, an inevitable dark fate awaits them both.
Composer Gregoire Hetzel contributes the film’s fairy-tale like feeling and faint chilling moments with his piercing scores. Despite Amalric’s devotion to preserving “The Blue Room” primarily as an artistic endeavor, there are moments in the film that infuse subtle visual motifs that convey a larger message than a conversation ever could. Quite interestingly used was the 360-degree camera rotation that creates a surreal frame reminiscent of those in Alfred Hitchcock’s films. However, the film’s greatest flaw lies in its excessive use of unnecessary shots and cuts, jumping from close-ups to establishing shots with little context. Amalric takes pleasure in trying to make the most out of a minimalist frame and a faint motif. The result is a series of unnecessarily quiet moments.
Amalric and Cléau’s chemistry is very passionate on-screen, truly highlighting the film’s possessive erotic aura. Amalric places great emphasis on conveying the tone of many scenes through physical expressions of his characters’ faces. In many scenes, Amalric is constantly seen staring off into the void in a mind-numbing fashion. Cléau proves on screen that she possesses the perfect balance of delusion and beauty.
Amalric took a blind swing with “The Blue Room,” forgetting that a weak plot will bring down even the most well-constructed films. You may lose yourself in the world Amalric has crafted, and when you find yourself you’ll be debating whether visually pleasing shots should outweigh the presence of a clear and thought-provoking plot. With a passionate cast, a monochromatic plot and a shrill musical score, there is much to gain and much to lose from watching “The Blue Room.”