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.

Crime Scene - - CONTENTS - The Blue Room is in cin­e­mas from 9 Sep­tem­ber and MUBI 21 Sep­tem­ber. By AN­DRE PAINE


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.”

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