The Blue Room
We begin with panoramic shots of
The Blue Room, which is a nicely-appointed European-style hotel room, on the
second floor, where outside the patio window a busy street bustles below.
The sound track is arresting:
it’s of a woman in obvious ecstasy,
interspersed with a man’s coital moaning, and at first we think that we’re
going to be discreet about showing us what, exactly, they’re doing in there.
But discretion is the last thing that French
Director Mathieu Amalric has in mind.
He shows us full-frontal.
And the woman is stunningly beautiful, and the
man is attentive and amorous, and then we wonder if we’ve stumbled on to
some foreign version of soft porn, but very quickly the “assignation”
recedes into stark, gritty scenes of a police inquiry.
The man, Julien (played by Amalric, who also
wrote the screenplay), is being questioned by an investigator in his office.
The interrogation is not overtly hostile, but it
is thorough. He
wants to know everything that was said and done, including the classic “How
long has this been going on?” Eleven months, it turns out.
Eight separate rendezvous.
He’d known Esther (Stephanie Cleau) since they
were children, but she was always tall and beautiful, and came from such a
distinguished family, that he always assumed she was unattainable.
That’s why he was really surprised when he was
driving on a country road one day and saw her standing beside her car, with a
flat, signaling for his help.
And like a sheep led to slaughter, he stops to
render aid, and she puts the moves on him right then and there.
And he is unable to resist her charms.
Even though he’s married, he would even say
and his attractive wife, Delphine (Lea Drucker), have a lovely young daughter.
He has a good job as a farm implement salesman,
and a nice home; the kind of life he really wouldn’t want to jeopardize with
a torrid affair. But
somehow he can’t help himself.
And before he knows it, Esther is asking him if
he thinks they could be together always, and he, is in his post-coital
languor, finds himself replying in the affirmative----how could he not say
something sweet to her in such a vulnerable circumstance?
Is he not just playing along with the fantasy for
a while, until, like good discreet cosmopolitan French, they quietly end it
and go on with their lives like nothing unusual happened?
Ah, but the beautiful Esther is
accustomed to getting her way from men.
Charming their socks off, as it were.
She and her husband work at a local pharmacy
which they own with his mother.
Maybe the alarm bells should have gone off in
Julien’s head when he spots the husband from the window of The Blue Room,
seemingly headed their way, and while he’s rushing out in a panic, Esther
just pulls the sheet over herself, seemingly unconcerned, while Julien storms
out the back door in a panic.
And then she leaves the red towel hanging outside
the balcony the next week, again, as the signal that the coast is clear, her
husband is gone, and they can meet in The Blue Room again.
Her husband’s sudden death makes
Julien stay away, out of respect, but he’s surprised to find the red towel
hanging outside the balcony again the next week, and even more surprised by
notes she leaves in his car, and sends to his office (“It’s our time.”).
He’s beginning to think that she’s become
alarmingly obsessed. Little
does he know.
Yes, it’s a foreign film, and
many Americans don’t like fooling with subtitles.
And it’s small-scope, almost like it could have
been a play in a theater, and the characters are, for the most part, fairly
ordinary-looking (at work in her pharmacist’s getup, with no makeup, she
isn’t quite so arresting).
The tension is all in not letting the viewer know
exactly what’s happened until nearly the end, and by that time we are
thoroughly enmeshed in this sordid little love triangle, as if it’s
something that could happen to any of us, given just the wrong circumstances.
Just like Eve taking the apple, and giving it to
Because they could, so they did. Original sin, in
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Parish
Associate, Woodhaven Presbyterian Church,