Viennale 2014 – Day 10: La chambre bleue (The Blue Room)

La Chambre BleueLa chambre bleue (The Blue Room)
France 2014
Written by Stéphanie Cléau & Mathieu Amalric, based on the novel by Georges Simenon
Directed by Mathieu Amalric

Maybe I was getting fatigued – this was my 10th Viennale-day, after all, and my 27th showing – but despite having high hopes for this one, I was mostly bored with “La chambre bleue”. In fact, I was so exhausted and tired after the screening, that I just wanted to go home, so I sold my ticket for the next movie (thus I missed “Why don’t you play in hell?”, I’m afraid). It would be unfair to put all the blame for that on “La chambre bleue”; the fact that “Why don’t you play in hell?” has a running time of a little more than two hours (and started at 11 p.m.) definitely also played a significant part in my decision. However, the fact remains that “La chambre bleue” did little to keep me invigorated, energized and/or hyped.

It’s not so much that “La chambre bleue” would be a bad movie – it’s not – but rather that it – like a couple of other movies of this years Viennale before it – felt rather pointless to me. I thought that the story was told in an unnecessarily confusing way, given the fact that at the beginning, we don’t really know what’s it all about, why they question Julien, and what crime he’s accused of in the first place. Getting that out of the way right at the beginning would have helped me to find my way into the movie. The constant (and totally unnecessary and arbitrary) shifts in time didn’t help, either. Thus, it missed focus and a clear narrative. Also, a little backstory would have been nice, because as it were, I – once again – couldn’t really relate to anybody.

What made the movie even more frustrating for me is the fact that I think that this had great potential. Either tell it strictly from Juliens point of view, or – even more exciting – put the viewer in the jury’s shoes. Show us the story only through the testimonies of the accused and the witnesses (shown via flashbacks, from their respective point of view, Rashomon-style), and you have a winner in your hands. Because the way the movie was shot I got the feeling to only get half of the story anyway. So why not use all this holes, the contradictions, the doubts etc. and let the viewer feel like one of the jury members, thus forcing us to ask ourselves: Would we have convicted him and/or her? Whose story seems more credible? There would have been a lot of dramaturgic potential there – that, unfortunately, goes to waste. Instead, we get a so-so crime procedural without any resolution.

Regarded independently, both Mathieu Amalric and Léa Drucker were great in their individual parts. Unfortunately I felt that they had no chemistry together. I didn’t feel the attraction, the passion and the sizzle that’s supposed to exist between Julien and Delphine. Instead, their relationship felt rather clinical and cold to me. Visually, Mathieu Amalric mostly does a good job of shooting the movie, offering a couple of nice shots (like Julien and Delphine making love in front of the open window). However, I was a little baffled by his decision to shoot in 4:3, which inevitably gave this a “TV-movie”-look (or rather: a “TV-movie of the 90s”-look, since even on the small screen, 16:9 is the prevalent format nowadays). And I could have done without the pointless, gratuitous pussy-shots (especially since Amalric, while obviously having no problem to put the genitals of his female co-star front and center, doesn’t feel the need to return the favor). Ultimately, it felt way longer to me than its rather short running time of 76 minutes, and despite some nice moments, I have a hard time recommending it to anyone.


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