Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Patrice Leconte
Stars: Gerard Depardieu, Jade Labeste, Pierre Moure, Aurore Clement, Clara Antoons, Melanie Bernier.
In the pantheon of fictional detectives, Chief Inspector Jules Maigret sits alongside Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes. Created by prolific French author Georges Simenon, Maigret has been the chief protagonist in some 78 novels and many short stories. His exploits have also been adapted for numerous film and television productions, and he has been played by the likes of Michael Gambon and, more recently, Rowan Atkinson.
Now iconic veteran French actor Gerard Depardieu steps into the role of the pipe smoking trench coat wearing sleuth, and he is a perfect fit with his formidable physical presence, his sense of gravitas, and his hangdog expression and world-weary visage suggests a character who has seen and experienced much that is unpleasant and has left its mark on his psyche. Depardieu brings an inscrutable quality to his portrayal of the iconic detective.
This film is based on the novel Maigret And The Dead Girl, the 49th in the series, and it has been adapted for the screen by director Patrice Leconte and co-writer Jerome Tonnerre. Leconte is an economical director and there is no flab or waste in this police procedural which clocks in at a brief 89 minutes.
The film follows the tropes of the classic police procedural. Maigret is set in Paris in 1953. A young woman, wearing a lavish ball gown, has been found stabbed to death with multiple stab wounds. Her identity is unknown, and Maigret sets out to find out who she is and what happened to her. His investigation leads him to the arrogant, pampered and entitled businessman Laurant (Pierre Moure) and his overprotective mother Madame Clermont-Valois (Aurore Clement). Maigret becomes obsessed with learning more about the dead girl and what connects her to this aristocratic family. He also becomes obsessed with Betty (Jade Labeste), a young girl newly arrived in the city and who shares a remarkable similarity to the dead girl. This obsession is a little reminiscent of Hitchcock’s classic Vertigo.
But Betty not only reminds Maigret of the dead girl, but of someone from his past, and this offers some insights into the detectives own tortured personal past.
Maigret deals with themes of class, privilege, identity, the sense of entitlement, jealousy, and it is filled with a sense of foreboding and subtle menace. This is a visually bleak looking production as it has been shot in greyish tones by cinematographer Yves Angelo, which gives the material an oppressive feel and suits the noir like tone. Visually its dour style resembles Leconte’s take on another Simenon tale with his 1989 take on Monsieur Hire. This is a sombre but atmospheric production, with some great production design from Loic Chavanon, and the period detail is excellent.