Extramarital affairs are seemingly as French as crepes and the Eiffel Tower. Of course, that doesn’t mean the good people of France think they are a worthwhile pursuit, as the emotional damage they cause is the same there as anywhere else in the world.
The French film “The Blue Room” (or “La Chambre Bleue” if you want to get all continental on me) is one of those movies about an affair gone horribly, horribly wrong and while it doesn’t have anything particularly novel or interesting to say, it does have a stylistic flair and competency that elevates it above lukewarm melodrama.
The movie is written, directed, and starring Mathieu Amalric, a well-established French actor who has popped up in a few American films (most notably “Quantum of Solace” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), who has spent much more of his career in front of the camera instead of behind it.
Here, he plays Julien Gahyde, the poor schlub who gets into all kinds of trouble by thinking with the wrong head. Julien is middle-aged, middle-class, and slightly bored with his marriage to his wife Delphine (Lea Drucker).
A chance encounter with old acquaintance Esther Despierre (Stephanie Cleau, who co-wrote the screenplay with Amalric) leads Julien into a passionate affair, but when he realizes things have gone too far, and attempts to break things off with Esther, he realizes that is easier said than done.
The movie is told rather ingeniously in flashback as we realize something terrible has happened as Julien is telling the story of the affair in various police interviews, depositions, and mental examinations.
This is a slight movie with an efficient 76-minute runtime, but it never seems to find the higher gear it is searching for. Amalric is very good as Julien, portraying him as a rat dejectedly caught in a trap of his own making; and his directorial style is straightforward and clever.
This being a French film, it is also erotic and a bit fatalistic, but then you probably already figured that out.
There’s not a ton here to get overly excited about. “The Blue Room” isn’t much more than Amalric carving out some space to deliver a solid acting performance and to remind us that giving in to human nature usually winds up being more trouble than its worth.
“The Blue Room” is rated R for sexual content including graphic nudity.