Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Mathieu Amalric
Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Stephanie Cleau, Lea Drucker
(R, 76 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense, Drama
“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Sir Walter Scott
Billed in our local paper as a “Hitchockian story of l’amour fou or "crazy love,” The Blue Room lured me to it like a weary traveler finding a magnificent guesthouse in the middle of nowhere. This weary traveler and film critic warns you to stay away.
I should have rejected the Hitchcock pitch as well as the link to the very solid Belgian crime writer Georges Simenon, who penned the wonderful Maigret books as well as the story behind this film. Different Drummer also ignored the fact that this “4 star film,” at least according to our Austin Chronicle film critic, was only playing at a single theater here in indie loving, keep it weird Austin, Texas.
Instead I fell for an ecstatic review:
The Blue Room is mesmerizing, psychologically complex, and, at the very end, viscerally devastating. They don’t make them like this much anymore, but they should. –Marc Savlov
I should have know better, since I was equally sucked into another bad choice in the spring, one that echoed the black goo that devours various amorous males in April’s sci fi feature Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johannson. Here is the bum steer on that loser of a film.
Under the Skin defies, shatters, and ultimately consumes genre boundaries like a randy wolf tonguing the raw marrow out of a particularly toothsome bone. –Marc Savlov
Even if Under the Skin did get other gushing reviews (86% positive on Rotten Tomatoes), the movie-going public wasn’t buying, as indicated by the 2.6 million dollar box office. All that, in spite of generous portions of nudity from Scarlett Johansson.
All of which reminds me why Different Drummer so named her website. Perhaps this former English teacher's years of reading high school prose has made her immune to the Kool Aid that has poisoned the judgment of so many contemporary critics.
A few get it, though. The also see through this highly touted 2014 Cannes Festival entry about a doubly adulterous affair with lethal results.
The film is so bloodless that you don’t care which legal side wins. Even the boudoir scenes are drab. –Colin Covert
The pleasure of a whodunit generally derives from trying to figure out who done it, but in the case of this arty, terminally obscure French mystery, most of the story has already transpired before one can even piece together what was done. –J. R. Jones
After sitting through this tedious tease, one might even be tempted to say that “arty, terminally obscure French mystery” is somewhat redundant, as some viewers might have felt about 2005’s Cache, at least its purposely ambiguous ending.
In spite of the vague allusion to Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, The Blue Room lacks the style and substance of that iconic director, who loved to marinate his films in Freudian repressed passion. The passion here is anything but suppressed. Perhaps that is why it fails to captivate us.
Ah, the French. How we love their beautiful language, their exquisite cooking, their wine, their cheese. But the British and the Americans out flank them on the mystery battlefield just as they did in World War II.
Or as Dennis Miller wisely observed, "What do you expect from a culture and a nation that exerted more of its national will fighting against Disney World and Big Macs than the Nazis?"
Maybe the best recommendation I can offer is to forget this confusing, obscure film and settle for a French dessert instead. Or you could settle down with Tell No One (2008), another French thriller that actually gets it right as a better prelude to our luscious Crème Brulee.
6 egg yolks
6 tablespoons white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
Beat egg yolks, 4 tablespoons sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until thick and creamy.
Pour cream into a saucepan and stir over low heat until it almost comes to boil. Remove the cream from heat immediately. Stir cream into the egg yolk mixture; beat until combined.
Pour cream mixture into the top of a double boiler. Stir over simmering water until mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon; approximately 3 minutes. Remove mixture from heat immediately and pour into a shallow heat-proof dish.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or overnight.
Preheat oven to broil,
In a small bowl combine remaining 2 tablespoons white sugar and brown sugar. Sift this mixture evenly over custard. Place dish under broiler until sugar melts, about 2 minutes. Watch carefully so as not to burn.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Refrigerate until custard is set again.