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'The Blue Room' review: Playing on perception

Stéphanie Cléau and Mathieu Amalric in

Stéphanie Cléau and Mathieu Amalric in "The Blue Room." Photo Credit: IFC Films

"Life is different when you live it and when you go back over it after," the bewildered Julien Gahyde (Mathieu Amalric) tells his police interrogators in "The Blue Room," a film in which variations of perception are played to disorienting and suspenseful effect.

Directed by Amalric -- the ubiquitous French actor known for "Munich," "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and the more recent "Venus in Fur" -- the story is adapted from the novel by cerebral French mystery writer Georges Simenon. Amalric not only does it justice but elevates its nuanced series of miscommunications and willful acts of deafness. Aided by some superb editing by François Gédigier, all the crossed wires and errors of meaning -- and tantalizing revelations about what has happened, and who is dead -- Amalric delivers an interpretation of how and why Julien's life is derailed that makes the story even more poignant and ironic.

There is an effort to attain a Hitchcockian grandeur during certain moments of "The Blue Room," particularly through sound: Some very big music gets played at the beginning against a series of static, shuttered rooms, and one would be forgiven for wondering if some kind of absurdist comedy is in the works. But the film finds its footing: In one of those rooms, Julien and Esther (Stéphanie Cléau), reunited after years apart and separate marriages, are having an affair. "What if I were free?" she asks, and his feckless answer opens the door to a series of calamities he had no idea were going to occur. Or did he? And are the guilty only those with blood on their hands? Simenon -- and Amalric -- would question such assumptions.


PLOT In the aftermath of a torrid affair, lovers are accused of a double murder. Unrated (sex, nudity, adult situations).

CAST Mathieu Amalric, Stephanie Cleau, Lea Drucker

LENGTH 1:16

BOTTOM LINE Tense, intriguing and will keep the viewer off-balance. (In French with English subtitles)

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