Friday, October 03, 2014

The Green Room

Based on a trio of short stories by Henry James in The Altar of the Dead, The Beast in the Jungle, and The Way It Came, La chambre verte (The Green Room) is the story of a man’s obsession with the dead as he strives to build a memorial for them. Directed and starring Francois Truffaut and screenplay by Truffaut and Jean Grualt, the film is an exploration into the world of death as it is set a decade after the first World War. Also starring Nathalie Baye, Jean Daste, and Patrick Maleon. La chambre verte is a mesmerizing film from Francois Truffaut.

The film is a simple story of a journalist whose obsession with death has him wanting to pay tribute to the friends including his old flame he had lost over the years as he gets the help from an auction house secretary. It’s a film where Julien Davenne (Francois Truffaut) tries to deal with the people he had lost as he was a World War I veteran as he also hold a torch for his wife Julie in a room where he places her belongings and such. Upon meeting Cecilia (Nathalie Baye) at an auction house where he bought a ring for his late wife, he would ask her to aid him in watching over a chapel that he would restore as he would make it a memorial for his old friends and his flame. The film’s screenplay takes the work of Henry James into something where a man is often around death from an opening scene at a funeral to the life that Julien lives in as it’s very quiet. Some of the film’s dialogue plays into the idea of death and Julien’s obsession with it where Cecilia is also dealing with loss as she would help him.

Truffaut’s direction also has an air of simplicity in his direction as it opens with this very rich montage of images of World War I with Julien looking on in a dissolve. Much of it is presented has Truffaut going for something intimate where there’s very little wide shots so that he can express Julien’s own determination to honor the dead. Much of it involve Truffaut going for simple camera movements and some compositions where it plays into the growing relationship between Julien and Cecilia where they unknowingly both visit the same cemetery where the latter has been going there because of someone she knew had just passed. While the film has a third act where it does play into a bit of convention, it does play into something that explores the idea of death as well as Julien’s obsession as he loses his own grip on life itself. Overall, Truffaut creates a very engaging and compelling film about a man’s obsession with death.

Cinematographer Nestor Almendros does excellent work with the film‘s low yet colorful cinematography from the naturalistic approach to the exterior scenes to some of the gorgeous images in the candlelight chapel scenes and inside the green room. Editor Martine Barreque-Currie does nice work with the editing as it‘s pretty straightforward with the exception of some stylish dissolve montage scenes that play into Julien‘s own obsession with death. Production designer Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko does brilliant work with the set design from the renovation of the chapel as well as the look of the cemetery including a tomb for an old friend of Julien.

Costume designers Monique Dury and Christian Gasc do terrific work with the costumes from the clothes that Julien wears where he often wears black while the clothes that Cecilia wear are grey. The sound work of Michel Laurent and Jean-Louis Ughetto is superb for some of the sound effects such as the storm and some of the more low-key moments in the film. The film’s music by Maurice Jaubert is amazing for its enchanting score that plays into the drama with its lush string arrangements and somber pieces for the heavier moments.

The film’s fantastic cast includes notable small roles from Jean Daste as Julien’s boss, Patrick Maleon as the deaf-mute boy Georges who lives with Julien, Jeanne Lorbe as Georges’ caretaker, Monique Dury as the secretary at the newspaper where Julien works at, Jean-Pierre Moulin as the widower whom Julien tries to comfort early in the film, and Laurence Ragon as the picture of Julien’s late wife Julie. Nathalie Baye is incredible as Cecilia as a very kind and charming woman who sort of knows Julien as she helps him with restoring a chapel as she also has some feelings for the dead. Finally, there’s Francois Truffaut in an excellent performance as Julien as this man who is haunted by loss as he wants to pay tribute to his late love as he realizes what he needs to do while losing sight of the world around him.

La chambre verte is a superb film from Francois Truffaut that features an amazing performance from Nathalie Baye. While it is an interesting film in its exploration of death, it is also a film that plays into obsession and how a man starts to lose sight into a world that is already filled with life. In the end, La chambre verte is a rich and glorious film from Francois Truffaut.

Francois Truffaut Films: The 400 Blows - Shoot the Piano Player - Jules & Jim - Antoine & Colette - The Soft Skin - Fahrenheit 451 - The Bride Wore Black - Stolen Kisses - Mississippi Mermaid - The Wild Child - Bed and Board - Two English Girls - Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me - Day for Night - The Story of Adele H. - Small Change - The Man Who Loved Women - Love on the Run - The Last Metro - The Woman Next Door - Confidentially Yours

The Auteur #40: Francois Truffaut (Pt. 1) - (Pt. 2)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

This sounds lovely! I'd love to see more Henry James films, and also catch up w/ Truffaut's work.

thevoid99 said...

I have 2 more films of his to do plus two shorts as I'm almost done with his filmography.