Mathieu Amalric The Blue Room

Mathieu Amalric was in Cannes just a year ago in Roman Polanski’s theatrical piece Venus in Fur. This year we see him as director, writer and star of The Blue Room, based on a Georges Simenon short story.

Almaric plays Julien, a John Deere rep in a sleepy French town. He has a beautiful house and a beautiful wife, but before we get to them we meet Julien in a hotel room with his lover, Esrher (Stéphanie Cléau). It turns out she’s a girl from his schooldays. When asked if he had a sexual relationship with her at school, he replies in the negative,stating “she was too tall” and a little out of his league in other ways. She married Nicolas, the sickly pharmacist, but it transpires that Esther had always been waiting for Julien to kiss her. She is passionate to the point of violence and we get a hint of what is in store as she draws blood. Back home, his lovely blonde wife – Esther asks if he scared of brunettes – waits and silently accepts his lame excuse for getting a torn lip. If Delphine (Léa Drucker) knows about the affair, she’s not saying. There are plenty of moments when we see Julien act aggressively towards Delphine, but can we be sure he’d actually be capable of killing her?

While The Blue Room refers to the hotel room where the lovers met, there are actually three blue rooms in this film. The other two are the interrogation room, where Julien meets the magistrate, and finally the courtroom, resplendent with royal blue wallpaper decorated with gold bee motifs. In fact, blue is everywhere we look: in the uniforms and the magistrate’s shirts and ties, in the daughter’s bike, the folders, the Christmas lights. Blue is the ubiquitous colour. It is countered by red, the red towel signalling Esther’s presence in the hotel, the incriminating plum jam, the blood and, in a nice touch, Nicolas’s mother’s hair, which acts as a beacon finally illuminating Julien with the truth. Bees also appear throughout the film. Esther allows one to settle on her naked stomach, Julien sets it free and his daughter is terrified when one lands on her ice-cream. The bee perhaps as both danger and fertility.

As well as the use of colour, Amalric is happy to play with the light, framing many of his scenes around windows and doorways. The characters are often seen through windows or are themselves looking out as voyeurs of their own stories. Music sweeps through much of this film, giving it a touch of old-style romance and drama. In fact, there is much to like in this twisted tale of unhappy marriages and rekindled passion. Amalric has a deft touch and has made a fine and mature film. Let’s hope there is more to come.