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La Chambre bleue – The Blue Room

PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 2:38 pm
by CAP
A modest French thriller based on a 1964 novel by Georges Simenon (best known for his Inspector Maigret series) of the same name – I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this except that it was directed and stars Mathieu Amalric, whose previous similarly credited feature La Tournée, I liked quite a lot. I don’t think The Blue Room is actually in general release just yet but in this wonderful wide world of the web there are other options, as you well know. Mwwwha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. :twisted:

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, The Blue Room. Anyway this one is more notable for the telling than the tale; basically a whodunit that launches from a huge guilt trip over adultery, somewhat inverting the usual proceedings. I’m not sure whether this is true of the book, haven’t read it, but in the movie it is rendered in terse editing that jumps from steamy sex scenes between an adulterous couple, Julien Gahyde (Amalric) and Ester Despierre (Stéphanie Cléau, Amalric’s real life partner) to a measured police interrogation of Gahyde. He is a farm machinery rep, somewhere in the French grain belt (with Simenon as author, I’m guessing the north) married with a small daughter and living in a spacious chic house in the countryside. She is the wife of a pharmacist in some small village. They do mention locations, but I’ve forgotten. But the setting is present day France.

At first we’re not sure what Gahyde is accused of, has he murdered Despierre or has she mysteriously disappeared? It is just a massive guilt trip, as if the police were some kind of manifest conscience. It works really well, as they interrogate him about every last detail of his exchanges with her, he arguing that you say reckless things in the heat of lust. True, sigh. They, looking for implicit motives, clues: our right-side, rational part of the brain. Often, recalled dialogue at the police station is counterpointed by the actual scenes, underlying the difference in tone and the distance of recall. In the cold light of day impetuous affairs look, well, impetuous. The police are cast in a surprisingly tactful and sympathetic light – just one of the things that make this modest effort surprisingly original. But the story is firmly from Gahyde’s point of view. Right up until the end he doesn’t realise that Despierre has been plotting against him, and has led him to unwittingly poison his wife. What a piece of work!

So how does such a straight and successful businessman ever fall into the clutches of a devil woman like Despierre? This point is crucial to our sympathy for Gahyde and is handled brilliantly. Although they knew each other in school, their paths quickly diverged, Gahyde leaving the district to further himself, only to return leasing high-end farming equipment, married with a young daughter. Despierre, a tall, athletic but fairly plain girl, marries an older, ‘safer’ local man, has no children and eventually becomes bored. She watches Gahyde from afar on his return, then by chance (?) her car breaks down in a golden autumn wood one day. Presently Gahyde happens to be passing and stops. They renew their old acquaintance and Despierre teases him that he chased all the girls but her. The guilt is probably already starting to kick in, even there. He delicately counters that being taller than he and a netballer, she just wasn’t his type. She turns up the teasing asking if he ever wondered what it would be like to kiss her? At this point, he should be backing off big time, trying to interest her in photos of his wife and daughter but he can only stare, bug-eyed in the way that is entirely Amalric’s, like a rabbit caught in a spotlight. The lush noir-ish music soars as she plants a big wet one on him amid tumbling autumn leaves, in a moment that is meant to be florid, a flashback just a little too melodramatic. They then race into the woods for sex.

It is meant to be a moment of fateful impulse, a quickie that proves irresistible. Pretty soon they are meeting regularly in the room upstairs of the pharmacist’s and they’re not just playing cards. The locals notice. At some point she says "Seriously, Julien, if I were suddenly free, could you free yourself too?" and he wants to think it’s just the stuff people say in post-coital reverie but in retrospect he starts to see it was more than that. In any case, he realises he has to cool it and try and reconnect with his wife more. Despierre goes on to poison her husband, cleverly, undetectably, through his medications. She expects Gahyde to follow suit. Did he realise? He tells the police “no”. But now he’s questioning his own grasp of the affair. Since the police initially find nothing suspicious in the death of the pharmacist, he forgets her question to him and treats it as just misfortune. But when his wife also dies from poisoning and he is arrested for murder, then the centime starts to drop.

At what point was he complicit? In the end they both go down for life and Despierre is satisfied that they somehow ‘remain together’ in their imprisonment, whereas he has to accept that he was shagging a crazy woman for the thrill and that the consequences are devastating. Ah tell me about it :roll: . As a plot, we’ve been here before with the woman scorned kind of thing, but the strangely abstract focus on firstly guilt for adultery makes this one a little different, makes Amalric all the more of a director to watch. I give it seven.