Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: La Chambre Verte
France, 1978. Les Films du Carrosse, Les Productions Artistes Associes. Screenplay by Jean Gruault, Francois Truffaut, based on the short stories The Altar of the Dead, The Way It Came and The Beast In The Jungle by Henry James. Cinematography by Nestor Almendros. Produced by Francois Truffaut. Music by Maurice Jaubert. Production Design by Jean-Pierre Kohut-Svelko. Costume Design by Monique Dury, Christian Gasc. Film Editing by Martine Barraqué.
Francois Truffaut adapts three Henry James stories, mainly Altar Of the Dead with elements of two others, The Way It Came and The Beast In The Jungle included, all three primarily occupied with the subject of death and its effect on the people left behind. He stars in the lead role as an obituary writer whose grief for his late wife has left him in a state of perpetual nostalgia, constantly visiting the titular room where he has built a shrine to her while his housekeeper does the primary caregiving for his young son. Attending an estate sale of his wife’s family heirlooms, he meets a beautiful woman (Nathalie Baye) working the auction and they start up a friendship that envelopes her into his growing obsession for the departed. Eventually his passion becomes the building of a memorial cathedral in the local cemetery where he plans to pay tribute to the dead on a constant basis (based, mainly, around the portrait of his late wife). Romantic and old-fashioned, this film is not overwhelmed with eroticism but is saturated with sentiment, a beautifully filmed and well acted drama. It’s rare to see the great New Wave filmmaker adaptating classical literature but it is not surprising, given his well known devotion to great writing, that he does so in a nuanced and accomplished manner.