Mathieu Amalric talks “The Blue Room”

By Stephanie Yan Cheng
Photo by Stephanie Yan Cheng
Photo by Stephanie Yan Cheng

Award-winning actor and director Mathieu Amalric takes on Georges Simenon’s erotic novel in “The Blue Room” — a film of the same name. Amalric plays a family man who finds himself involved in a dangerous and passionate affair with a seductive woman (Stephanie Cleau). Previously seen as the ailing lead in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” the villain in James Bond’s “Quantum of Solace” and the informant in “Munich,” Amalric has stepped behind the screen in recent years — his 2010 comedy “On Tour” won favorable reviews and earned him the Best Director Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. “Blue Room,” which premiered at the 67th Cannes Festival and 52nd New York Film Festival, stars Amalric opposite his partner, Cleau, whom he co-wrote the script with.

Initially, Amalric did not know he and Cleau would end up starring in the film together.

“It was a bit like a joke at the beginning that she made, ‘I could be the unfaithful wife and you could be my lover.’” Cleau’s anonymity played into her character. “Maybe it would be more interesting if the mistress is being played by a face people don’t know. The threat of an unknown so people can project their thoughts on her. So maybe she’s dangerous.”

His producer, Paulo Branco, approached Amalric with the idea of directing a new film. “He said, ‘Hey! Stop writing now. You have to do a film.’” Reading the novel again, Amalric was attracted by the “incredible and sensual style” of Simenon. “The Blue Room” even influenced several scenes in Amalric’s 2010 film “On Tour.”

Amalric admitted, “the film decides” when it came to his creative decisions.

“The writing of Simenon, the way the characters are so isolated… There is nothing to do with harmony. There’s nothing to do with a camera that would create a link between persons, instead, it’s a kind of camera that caresses every character — it’s like fragmented pieces.” In the end, Amalric and his team decided to shoot the film in 1:33 instead of other formats such as CinemaScope because “it seemed more powerful, more close to Simenon’s sentences. I couldn’t imagine something that would have been gentle.”

Amalric describes his troubled character, Julien, as “a man without qualities.” Even though he’s a self-made man with a successful career and a faithful family, he is “more like a white sheet of paper” because he is not himself with his wife nor is he himself with his daughter. Amalric explains that “people [are able to] recognize themselves [in Julien] because unfortunately in our everyday life we have so many responsibilities and a part of you has to die because life with intensity is too dangerous.”

Stephanie Yan Cheng is a contributing writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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