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The Nicolas Le Floch TV series is based on a series of books written by Jean-François Parot and set during the time of Louis the XV and XVI.
Full disclosure: I know very little about this time period. I have not read the books (but see the last paragraph). The books are very highly regarded as historically accurate.
Currently there are ten episodes (with their length they could be called movies) of Le Floch (2008-2013; new episodes coming in 2014 and 2015), and they are a work of art. A thing to behold. Magnificent. The sets, the costumes, the music, the makeup and wigs, are wondrous. It is beautifully, exquisitely made. There are scenes that are simply breathtaking. An example is after the death of Louis the XV as a despairing Le Floch walks alone, away from the death chamber, while a mass of several hundred magnificently costumed extras move toward it. It is a long, gut-wrenching scene.
As almost anyone who's heard of the French Revolution will know, this is a difficult time (to say the least!). Much of the aristocracy is, if we are to believe the stories here, perverse beyond belief. They perhaps deserved what was coming to them.
Nicolas Le Floch was the illegitimate son of the Marquis de Ranreuil (thus he is referred to as "Petit Marquis"). He becomes a police inspector under the real-life person Antoine de Sartine, Lieutenant General of Police of Paris, and promoted to Commissaire. Under Nicolas are inspector Bourdeau, and a sort of 18th century Medical Examiner (Sanson). Together they solve crimes with intelligence and serious intent during a time where forensic sciences is in its infancy (if that).
Jérôme Robart is brilliant as Le Floch. His acting is superb and he lights up the universe with his smile. He appears to be an excellent horseman and swordsman (although what do I know? At any rate he looks good!). He is a joy to watch. Although as previously mentioned it is a dire and grim time, he seems to be able to keep his humor and his humanity, although clearly he sees the worst that life has to offer.
His compatriots are equally well-played. Bourdeau and and Sanson are trustworthy and loyal, but other characters such as Sartine are duplicitous, even threatening. Not only is it a grim time but dangerous time as well. Many of these wonderful actors and actresses show up in other fantastic shows like Engrenages and Le sang de la vigne.
Near the end of one episode Bourdeau, commenting on the fact that an aristocrat is simply shipped off to his estate outside Paris after committing several heinous acts, asks Le Floch when the law will ever be equally applicable to all. Thus the rub. it is a time of cognitive dissonance when it comes to justice. Le Floch is more than aware of this as he seemingly skirts around the dangers falling all around him and brings in the bad guys.
Thanks to MHz International Mysteries for showing this series, along with all the other excellent shows it airs. Le Floch is well worth your time and effort (the subtitles are excellent but it is a lot of work watching such a visually complex and complicated show with subtitles -- I find I need to watch episodes twice). You can also buy the DVDs from MHz, and if you like the series, I recommend you purchase them as they include additional scenes, and the money goes to a good cause -- more Le Floch episodes being available here in the U.S. when they are released!
If there is one negative thing -- it is the sexual "conquests" business. The multitude of liaisons are treated as commonplace. This is probably accurate but it does (as a typical New Worlder) make me a little "squeamish." In one episode Le Floch's current mistress announces she is pregnant. He seems joyous. But we never see her again. It seems odd to modern sentiments. In another episode, however, his mistress announces she is leaving him and he is extremely distraught and heartbroken; another gut-wrenching scene. So he is not callous. He just has quite the libido. Ce la vie!
Addendum: since writing this I have read all the available translated Parot novels. They are excellent. I recommend them heartily. Understandably, the episodes don't cover everything in the books, and diverge from the plots -- sometime in significant ways. The characters are (of course) much more substantially fleshed out. The scenes describing food... are fantastic. Even better... Nicolas adopts a little black and white cat (Mouchette), who has not yet materialized in the episodes. Being fond of cats, I smile when she makes her charming appearances in the books.
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