The Blue Room

At the Movies Blog

Nothing works better than trying to get away from your mistress by taking the wife on a vacation.

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One of the most intriguing young actors around is Mathieu Amalric, a French actor that Americans might know for his roles in Quantum of Solace and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I was blown away at his performance in Venus in Fur earlier this year.

This is his 4th time behind the camera, in a movie he stars in. He also co-wrote it with Stephanie Cleau. It’s French film noir, with a score filled with strings, that feels like something out of a Hitchcock movie. Unfortunately, it lacks the tension Hitchcock thrillers have.

The close-ups and use of lighting were rather interesting. Usually when filmmakers do artsy films, they come across like film school students being too avant-garde . Yet when a couple of adulterers are having an affair, it’s filmed rather erotically (It got an R rating, despite lots of frontal nudity by both sexes).

We soon see this affair intertwined with a police interrogation. So we get one scene of the affair of Amalric’s home life, followed by a scene of him being questioned. Is his wife dead or missing? Is it his lover? And did he have anything to do with it? Well, it’s fun to ponder all this as you’re watching some handsomely shot scenes. It’s unfortunate that the payoff isn’t satisfying.

The story is taken from the Georges Simenon novella, and the 3rd act becomes a court room drama, with unfortunately, very little drama. They cover a lot of the topics we already heard during interrogations.

The cast is solid, with the suspicious wife (Lea Drucker) playing a nicely restrained character.

One thing that fascinated me about this was that it was like the European version of a femme fatale character. In America, they give audiences Fatal Attraction. In that movie, Michael Douglas realizes Glenn Close is a nutjob after she starts boiling bunnies and thrashing his car. In this, Amalric starts to realize this, but isn’t quite sure how to get out of the relationship. I think most guys would’ve been out of there the second time they hooked up, and she once again bit his lip and caused it to bleed and swell up. The fact that she asks a lot of questions about the possibility of them someday being together, is often enough to make men run for the hills.

The movie is only an hour and 10 minutes, but it feels longer when the story is this subtle. Again, I think that’s a nice change of pace from the American pictures that want to cater to the lowest common denominator of moviegoer; the people that want car chases and gun shots. It’s sometimes more interesting to just study a persons face, as they realize they’re in too deep. Yet strangely enough, a stronger third act would’ve made this a great picture.

I can only give it 2 ½ stars out of 5.

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