The ordinary afternoon street-scene beyond an open window half-illuminates a hotel room, letting in a miniature horde of visitors - refracted sunlight, a honeybee, a cool breeze, the implacable face of somebody's unexpected husband - all inclined to land upon the sweat-strewn backs of the bed's entangled bodies in one way or another. In Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room the lovers inside dare this space, their nudity displayed openly, to crash down around them - the bee makes a pretty picture, the breeze cuts the sticky air, and the husband, well, he'll have his day too.
The Blue Room is based on a 1964 book by Georges Simenon, a writer who's been described by some as the French Patricia Highsmith, and much like we've come to expect from adaptations of that writer this story is obsessed with crime and sex and where the twain shall tragically meet - the "criss cross" of Highsmith's Strangers on a Train especially sneaks to mind. Simenon seems less interested in Bruno & Guy's kind of repression though; he and Amalric's concerns seem to blossom off passion's full expression. So sweat and blood roll down parted lips and Amalric lingers upon the contents of that room as if they themselves hold all the answers. Time and again we flash back to the lovers, often frozen as post-coital still-life, flushed and spent - what happens when those moments can't stay contained?
Amalric's film tries to have it both ways, running simultaneously cold and hot - the frame square as an ice-box, the strings lush with heat, a court-room drama told through lurid tales of windswept outdoor encounters - but it tends to meet in the middle more often than not, lukewarm when it should boil and tepid when it should chill to the bone. The fractured timeline structure robs us of too much emotional investment - it becomes more a what-happened than a why; an assortment of mostly unknowable glances piled up and posed.
The Blue Room screens tonight Sept 30th (9 PM)