Ce n’est pas Maigret mais Grey...
THE BLUE ROOM | Former Bond villain Mathieu Amalric tells Crime Scene about his steamy thriller based on a novel by Simenon.
“WHAT IS OVERWHELMING IS HOW HE GRASPS WHAT IS COMMON TO ALL OF US’”
It’s a long way from Maigret. The Blue Room, one of Georges Simenon’s “roman durs” (psychological novels), is a sexually charged, disquieting account of a family man, Julien, whose affair results in a police investigation. Fifty years after it was published, French actor Mathieu Amalric ( Quantum Of Solace, Wolf Hall) has directed a seductive film adaptation.
The movie opens with a sex scene in a hotel room featuring adulterous lovers played by Amalric and his co-writer and real-life partner Stéphanie Cléau. “In those moments, you weren’t even conscious of the craziness or the danger of the project,” Amalric tells Crime Scene. “Once it was done, I thought ‘How did we dare to do that?’ It was because in the novel the
description of the character is very close to Stephanie: taller than him, like a statue – somebody that you can’t read. The silence, the coldness and heat that can drive men crazy, it was like I had it in my life and it was like a joke between us – ‘Let’s not be married, let’s be lovers’.”
The Blue Room keeps you spellbound with two timeframes: the affair takes place in parallel to glimpses of Julien being questioned, the crime being only gradually revealed. “I had the feeling we could have fun with the movie playing on those double times – the recollection of memories and the present,” says Amalric. “It’s like it was a struggle between the image and the sound, like two dogs biting themselves.” In her first screen role, Cléau is a mysterious presence as Esther, who may or may not be a femme fatale. “The actress who plays my wife, Lea Drucker, is very famous in France, and people know my face,” says Amalric. “On set we would call Stéphanie the threat of the unknown, and maybe the fact that she is a virgin on screen creates this sort of ‘Who is she?’”
The Blue Room’s mood is established by its bold use of the Academy ratio screen format. “It creates a sort of distance and a sort of languor – like a slow poison,” says Amalric. Yet the shoot took just weeks. “As Simenon wrote quickly, we had to shoot quickly,” he explains.
The film coincided with Penguin’s reissue of dozens of newly translated Simenon novels. “We all have our favourite Simenon,” Amalric tells Crime Scene. “Very few people have read all of them. Usually you just fall on one that you find in the toilet of a grandmother or a friend’s shelf, [and] just read it on a train. What I think is particularly overwhelming is how he grasps what is absolutely common to all of us – and, of course, it has to do with sexuality. I think that’s why it continues to be so sharp even today.”