Inspector Bellamy

December, 2010, Mystery

 

Famed French Director Claude Chabrol died just three months ago at age 80 leaving this shaggy-dog murder mystery as his personal denouement. It’s as leisurely and shuffling as its protagonist, (the highly regarded Inspector of the title) played with effortless charm by another French movie icon, Gerard Depardieu. It’s hard to image another director of murder mysteries who could match Chabrol in quality of output, nor a leading man who can hold a candle to Depardieu's commanding presence in front of the camera. Their only collaboration may leave you a bit annoyed by the film’s diffidence but probably lamenting that they’ll never have the chance to work together again.

In a career spanning more than half a century, the prolific Chabrol directed more than 70 films, 54 of which were based on his own scripts. His final effort follows the vacationing Inspector Bellamy as he probes an accident that might be a homicide and a suspect so willing to confess he just might be either mentally unstable or guilty of converting moral failure into criminal responsibility. Bellamy grows bemused, then annoyed and finally angry about this dispruption of his time off, moods into which Depardieu moves effortlessly - - something which cannot be said  about how well the actor moves physically, since  he’s allowed his girth to expand to  the point it  contends with The Bastille as France’s largest monument. 

The director’s films abound with skepticism about the potential for human virtue and the ubiquitous capacity our species displays for violent felonious behavior; as usual, he couples that worldview here with the crisp, spare visual style that’s been his signature for decades. A car wreck is presented with shots that concentrate solely on the vehicle’s wheels, and sudden death comes announced by examining the contents of a spilled watering-can in an apartment complex. Chabrol wastes no time or motion as he advances storylines as dark and perverse as they are nonchalant in examining the human propensity for evil.

 Depardieu’s portrayal as a gruff  but highly sensitive cop wouldn’t  have achieved  its  full realization without the charming presence (in the script and on the screen) of his long-suffering wife Francoise (Marie Bunel) whose patience with her  husband is exceeded only by her ability to employ her femininity and  good  judgment in making the detective feel good  about himself. Bunel, an attractive actress in her late forties, reinforces what avid Gallic film lovers have known for years - - that French women, (at least those on screen) actually grow more stunning and sexually attractive as they grow older. As soon as Bunel appears on screen, its obvious why her husband finds her so incessantly desirable; with teasing, come-hither glances and cool self-assurance, she finds it easy to coddle her husband with matronly affection while seducing him at every turn. The actress provides a performance nearly as astounding in its casual perfection as that of Depardieu.

The Verdict? A slight, but elegantly stylized bon-bon of criminality. 

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