Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Blue Room

Last day to see this at the Coolidge, so go for it tonight if you're interested. It's worth a look, and it's only 76 minutes. More movies should just be that long.

I like it for a lot more than it's no-messing-around length, though. Mathieu Almaric has a kind of pleasant Tim Curry thing going on, and it's got Lea Drucker, whom I did not recognize from "Just Before Losing Everything", but should have, because she was fantastic in one of last year's best short films.

I kind of wondered whether it was made for television when the curtains pulled in to the tight 1.33:1 aspect ratio - which might also explain the compact running time - although I don't know why anyone would use that aspect ratio for TV any more. Even if the US is unusual for having gone all-in with HDTV and its 1.78:1 aspect ratio, I was under the impression that a lot of European television productions shot for widescreen anyway. I also wondered if any of the people sitting closer to the ends of rows scooted toward the center when the curtains closed, what with their seats now to the left of the frame.

One other thing I'm curious about is


whether the name of the film has a more universal meaning in France than just the color of the characters' hotel room. The last few shots of the movie had frequent cuts to the upper portion of the courtroom, which was painted blue. Is this a universal thing? The decor feels kind of official even if the actual courthouse isn't as opulent as one in a larger city might be. If so, nifty double meaning. If not, I still like it; it's a neat way of tying the start to the end, just like the drops of blood & jam lead to the final murder.


I must admit, though, I was a bit at sea not knowing how the court system in France works. I remember seeing Dick Wolf talking about the process of adapting Law & Order to the UK on a DVD extra and casually mentioning that it wasn't necessarily that hard, as the systems are very much related, and that when they did Special Victims Unit in France, where you don't have presumption of innocence, that was a lot trickier. Fortunately, it got me more curious than frustrated, but I don't know if that would be the case for everyone.

La Chambre Bleue (The Blue Room)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 October 2014 in Coolidge Corner Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Georges Simenon wrote La Chambre Bleue (The Blue Room in English) about sixty years ago, and it appears to be the sort of elemental crime story where only small details need be changed to bring it into the present day. Mathieu Amalric's adaptation is tight in almost every way it can be, just what you want from this sort of elemental story.

The blue room of the title is in a local hotel, where Julien Gahyde (Amalric) and Esther Despierre (Stéphanie Cléau) have met and made love eight times in the last eleven months. They knew each other as teenagers and reconnected when Julien moved back four years ago, leading to vague talk of leaving their respective spouses. But while it doesn't look like Julien wants to end it with his wife Delphine (Lea Drucker), other conversations - with police, lawyers, psychologists, and judges - soon follow.

This situation is behind half of all the mystery thrillers ever made, and this one doesn't necessarily add many new twists to the plot: There just aren't enough characters for particularly unique permutations to emerge. What The Blue Room does, then, is to slice up the story and put it back together in an interesting way. In fact, the basic structure of this story is almost inverted, presenting the audience with the accused and their motives fairly quickly but taking plenty of time to tease out what actual crime has been committed.

Full review at EFC.

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