(Mathieu Amalric, France, 2014)
Amalric's delectable slice of doomed eroticism, adapted from Simenon's novel of the same name, clocks in at only 76 minutes, but he makes every second count. The film is like a hothouse, confined and seething and humid. It's tempting to declare the work as one of formidable craft, first and foremost, but there's a genuinely excited, and perhaps even anguished, heart that pushes the whole thing into beguiling and unexpected places. Perhaps I'm guilty of reserving my enthusiasm for an artist who is principally known, at least to me, as an actor, even if he has repeatedly shown himself to be among the best in the business. But that kind of bias, if indeed it is affecting my appreciation of the film, can't ultimately distract from the filmmakers' accomplishment. There is a feel for the medium that is palpably instinctual - the treatment of this story seems to spring from someplace deep. Amalric co-wrote with his wife, Stephanie Cleau, who plays opposite him as the Sphinx-like femme fatale; whether she's truly a murderess is left no more clear than whether he is a murderer. Adding to their (it belongs to both of them, clearly) accomplishment is their ability to find new dimensions in a well-played genre: the adultery-cum-murder potboiler has serious mileage on it, particularly in France and the US, but Amalric and Cleau scrupulously avoid any cliches.
Perhaps the biggest win is in the twinning of longing and regret; erotic anticipation and the wintry sadness that comes with the realization of deep loss. The film, as previously described, has heat aplenty, but its world is softened and chilled with the titular hue, and the predominant tone of the film is cool, even cold. It's possible that the later scenes of the film, which tantalize with possible answers to the questioned raised by the fractured narrative, are a bit to determined in their ambiguity. But everything is so damn handsome, so intelligently made, that I felt eager to see more. I hope Amalric and Cleau keep this partnership running, at least creatively.