Cannes has seen the multi-talented Mathieu Amalric go from strength to strength. Over the years he has played a bumbling don juan in My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument (Comment je me suis disputé (ma vie sexuelle)), a prisoner of his paralysed body in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le Scaphandre et le Papillon), and a director under the spell of Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure). In 2010, he presented in Competition as director of On Tour (Tournée), a film that featured a neo-burlesque troupe as the supporting cast. This year Amalric is back for Un Certain Regard with The Blue Room (La Chambre bleue).
Photo of the film © RR
What were the standout moments of the shoot for you?
The first thing that comes to mind is the final days of the shoot, the trial. We opened up to the public the abandoned courtroom in Baugé where we were filming. Hoards of people wanted to be part of the fake trial. Because in the film it was the real thing. We assembled a court of real-life legal professionals. Our first take was over two hours. We wanted to capture the din in the background, the theatrics and the interminably slow, surreal pace of the proceedings. We showed the judge coming in, the public standing up, the accused (played by a handcuffed Stéphanie Cléau and me) being brought in, and the oaths, statements of fact and so on. That’s right, we put together a fake-real case based on the Blue Room ‘affair’, handed it over and let the trial run its course. The clerk exhibited the evidence (put in actual evidence bags by the props manager) and the public craned their necks to get a look at us as the advocate general accused us of terrible crimes. By the time our solicitors started on our defence, I felt like I was slowly drowning in a nightmare that would end tragically. The jury were scrutinising us as they listened to the case. The public were laughing, applauding and booing. For real!
Before we even got to the verdict I jumped up and yelled “Cut! Cut!” to wake myself up from the nightmare.
Can you tell us about your next project?
I don’t know myself. I didn’t know about The Blue Room until Paulo set the ball rolling. I like hearing people’s requests, preferences and intuitions. In the meantime I’ll keep beavering away on transcribing Stendhal’s Scarlet and Black.
What type of films have influenced you?
You need to stay open, curious, free of principles, if you want to be true to yourself. Embrace your different sides. And look to films for the as-yet-unknown identity of the project you’re working on. For The Blue Room, it was black and white films by RKO, Jacques Tourneur, Preminger and Fritz Lang. Films that were shot in a hurry, short, lyrical and nerve-wracking. Suspense and passion. In the first degree. Also Truffaut’s The Woman Next Door (La Femme d’à côté), Pialat’s Loulou, Usual Suspects, Je t’aime, je t’aime by Resnais, L’Atalante by Vigo… You pick up bits and pieces as you go along and then leave them behind when you start shooting.
Friday 16th May / Buñuel Theatre / 11 am - 5 pm