Sex and Murder Most Foul in “The Blue Room”
By Skip Sheffield
“The Wages of Sin is death.”
That’s what it says in the Bible, Romans 6:23. I doubt that’s what Belgian novelist Georges Simenon was thinking when he wrote his novel “The Blue Room.”
“Blue Room” is the basis for a sexy French murder mystery written by and starring Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”). Amalric plays Julien Gahyde, a farm equipment salesman with a lovely wife Delphine (Lea Drucker) and a somewhat fragile daughter Suzanne (Mona Jaffart).
We meet Julien in bed with Esther Despierre (Stenanie Cleau).
“Do you love me Julien?” she says.
“”I think so,” he replies.
We then cut to a police interrogation of Julien. How many times has he enjoyed the carnal company of Esther? Only eight times in 11 months,” he replies.
The entire movie cuts back and forth between events leading up to two suspicious deaths, and the subsequent police investigation and court trial of the suspects. Although there is nudity and implied sex, rarely has an affair been so unsexy.
Why do people stray? In Julien’s case it seems to be boredom accompanied by opportunity. Esther’s ailing husband, a doctor, is rarely around the flat they have above a pharmacy, where Esther works. Suzanne has many allergies and maladies, so Julien regularly visits the pharmacy. Though he professes love for Delphine, it is obvious the thrill is gone, and she knows it. A weekend getaway to the Riviera fails to re-fire the passion of a love dying.
Meanwhile Esther is putting on the pressure for Julien to make a decision: divorce his wife and marry her or end the affair.
Mathieu Amalric is adept at portraying a weak character with a guilty conscience. As the investigation and trail wear on, Esther is interrogated too. Actress Stephanie Cleau co-wrote the screen adaptation with Amalric, so they are literally on the same page.
If you like mysteries with murder most foul, done with a Gallic twist, it is fun trying to second-guess the plot twists. Georges Simenon was after all a master of murder mysteries, and his famous detective, Jules Maigret, is the Gallic equivalent of Sherlock Holmes.