Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Inspector Bellamy

The final film of French auteur Claude Chabrol was his first collaboration with legendary actor Gérard Depardieu, the main reason to see this enigmatic mystery.

Oct 28, 2010

-By Rex Roberts


filmjournal/photos/stylus/155242-Inspector_Bellamy_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Midway through Inspector Bellamy, the eponymous detective, played by Gérard Depardieu, finds himself questioning the wife of a fugitive murder suspect. Barrel-chested, bearish, wearing his expansive suit coat like a judge’s robe, Depardieu excuses himself from her living room to pour a glass of water in the kitchen. He turns on the faucet and lets the water splash into the sink as he directs the conversation to the couple’s sex life. We then see Depardieu in what might be described as Hitchcockian profile standing at the end of a hallway, still conducting his inquiry like a psychiatrist behind the couch, out of sight but ever-present.

Like so much in Inspector Bellamy, the scene mixes the curious with the commonplace, the portentous with the pedestrian, working by suggestion and inviting speculation. Everything appears to sit on the surface in this alternately charming and unsettling movie, yet little is as it seems, which makes Inspector Bellamy a fitting adieu from a filmmaker preoccupied by secrets and obsessions. Chabrol seems to have wanted to stuff everything including the kitchen sink (pun intended) into his last movie. Inspector Bellamy has so many threads, quirks, nods and feints, we are left wondering what just happened, exactly, and whether all the fuss about murder, fraud, ethical behavior, childhood rivalry and trauma, marital fidelity and erotic compulsion wasn’t just a lot of stuff and nonsense to fill the idle hours of a semi-retired cop who doesn’t like to travel and has no hobbies.

Famous Parisian sleuth Paul Bellamy and his preternaturally patient wife, Françoise (Marie Bunel), are summering in their country home near Nîmes when a stranger intrudes, a shadowy figure who lurks about the house until Bellamy agrees to meet him at his hotel. After some obligatory coaxing by the ever-inquisitive Bellamy, the man, who goes by the name Noël Gentil, reveals himself to be Emile Leullet, currently wanted for insurance fraud and the murder of Denis LePrince. Bellamy is intrigued by the notion that all three characters, if you count Gentil and Leullet as separate identities, are connected in some metaphysical as well as purely deductive way. Rather than turn Leullet over to the authorities, he begins his own investigation into the crime—if in fact there has been a crime: If you provide a broken man with the opportunity to end his life in a way that suits his own desires, is that murder?

Meanwhile, Paul and Françoise must deal with a visit from Bellamy’s younger ne’er-do-well half-brother, Jacques (Clovis Cornillac), whose capacity for drink rivals his talent for self-pity. For all his petty thieving and hurtful remarks, Jacques exercises a powerful hold over Paul, and his presence initiates a psychodrama that parallels Bellamy’s informal inquiry into the Leullet case: Paul must confront his own repressed guilt as he attempts to establish the innocence, as it were, of his brother as well as Leullet. The words doppelganger and palimpsest come to mind.

In addition to all this, Chabrol deliberately modeled Bellamy on Georges Simenon’s Maigret, quoting the French writer’s style and sensibility, and threw in a subplot tied to French chanteur Georges Brassens, whose lyrics play an unusual role in the film’s climax. The director, working with his son, composer Matthieu Chabrol, uses the film score to evoke classic cinema: Haunting orchestration accompanies the film’s opening frames as the camera pans across the seaside cemetery at Sète (where Brassens lies buried), ending with a crescendo as we look down upon the strand to find a charred and headless corpse next to a wrecked automobile. At other times, music bursts into a scene expressionistically, calling attention to the movie as movie, reminding us that it (like real life) is artifice.

For all of its layers and allusions, the real pleasure of Inspector Bellamy owes to the performances of Depardieu and Bunel, who remind us that you needn’t be young, naked and in perfect shape to be sexy—not to suggest that Bunel isn’t perfectly lovely. Depardieu, on the other hand, has grown even larger than his formidable reputation, yet his charisma has kept pace. His turn as Bellamy isn’t particularly memorable or moving, but Depardieu hasn’t lost his uncanny ability to command the screen. Something about the ordinariness of the Bellamys make them unusually likeable, and whatever viewers take away from Chabrol’s eccentric last effort, they will be charmed by these always watchable artists.


Film Review: Inspector Bellamy

The final film of French auteur Claude Chabrol was his first collaboration with legendary actor Gérard Depardieu, the main reason to see this enigmatic mystery.

Oct 28, 2010

-By Rex Roberts


filmjournal/photos/stylus/155242-Inspector_Bellamy_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Midway through Inspector Bellamy, the eponymous detective, played by Gérard Depardieu, finds himself questioning the wife of a fugitive murder suspect. Barrel-chested, bearish, wearing his expansive suit coat like a judge’s robe, Depardieu excuses himself from her living room to pour a glass of water in the kitchen. He turns on the faucet and lets the water splash into the sink as he directs the conversation to the couple’s sex life. We then see Depardieu in what might be described as Hitchcockian profile standing at the end of a hallway, still conducting his inquiry like a psychiatrist behind the couch, out of sight but ever-present.

Like so much in Inspector Bellamy, the scene mixes the curious with the commonplace, the portentous with the pedestrian, working by suggestion and inviting speculation. Everything appears to sit on the surface in this alternately charming and unsettling movie, yet little is as it seems, which makes Inspector Bellamy a fitting adieu from a filmmaker preoccupied by secrets and obsessions. Chabrol seems to have wanted to stuff everything including the kitchen sink (pun intended) into his last movie. Inspector Bellamy has so many threads, quirks, nods and feints, we are left wondering what just happened, exactly, and whether all the fuss about murder, fraud, ethical behavior, childhood rivalry and trauma, marital fidelity and erotic compulsion wasn’t just a lot of stuff and nonsense to fill the idle hours of a semi-retired cop who doesn’t like to travel and has no hobbies.

Famous Parisian sleuth Paul Bellamy and his preternaturally patient wife, Françoise (Marie Bunel), are summering in their country home near Nîmes when a stranger intrudes, a shadowy figure who lurks about the house until Bellamy agrees to meet him at his hotel. After some obligatory coaxing by the ever-inquisitive Bellamy, the man, who goes by the name Noël Gentil, reveals himself to be Emile Leullet, currently wanted for insurance fraud and the murder of Denis LePrince. Bellamy is intrigued by the notion that all three characters, if you count Gentil and Leullet as separate identities, are connected in some metaphysical as well as purely deductive way. Rather than turn Leullet over to the authorities, he begins his own investigation into the crime—if in fact there has been a crime: If you provide a broken man with the opportunity to end his life in a way that suits his own desires, is that murder?

Meanwhile, Paul and Françoise must deal with a visit from Bellamy’s younger ne’er-do-well half-brother, Jacques (Clovis Cornillac), whose capacity for drink rivals his talent for self-pity. For all his petty thieving and hurtful remarks, Jacques exercises a powerful hold over Paul, and his presence initiates a psychodrama that parallels Bellamy’s informal inquiry into the Leullet case: Paul must confront his own repressed guilt as he attempts to establish the innocence, as it were, of his brother as well as Leullet. The words doppelganger and palimpsest come to mind.

In addition to all this, Chabrol deliberately modeled Bellamy on Georges Simenon’s Maigret, quoting the French writer’s style and sensibility, and threw in a subplot tied to French chanteur Georges Brassens, whose lyrics play an unusual role in the film’s climax. The director, working with his son, composer Matthieu Chabrol, uses the film score to evoke classic cinema: Haunting orchestration accompanies the film’s opening frames as the camera pans across the seaside cemetery at Sète (where Brassens lies buried), ending with a crescendo as we look down upon the strand to find a charred and headless corpse next to a wrecked automobile. At other times, music bursts into a scene expressionistically, calling attention to the movie as movie, reminding us that it (like real life) is artifice.

For all of its layers and allusions, the real pleasure of Inspector Bellamy owes to the performances of Depardieu and Bunel, who remind us that you needn’t be young, naked and in perfect shape to be sexy—not to suggest that Bunel isn’t perfectly lovely. Depardieu, on the other hand, has grown even larger than his formidable reputation, yet his charisma has kept pace. His turn as Bellamy isn’t particularly memorable or moving, but Depardieu hasn’t lost his uncanny ability to command the screen. Something about the ordinariness of the Bellamys make them unusually likeable, and whatever viewers take away from Chabrol’s eccentric last effort, they will be charmed by these always watchable artists.
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