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In 1930s France, Superintendent Larosière has a passion for beautiful women and solving cases, while hapless young inspector Lampion just tries to keep up. And in the mid-'50s, suave Commissioner Laurence unravels knotty crimes with the help of reporter Alice. Written by
Agatha Christie: The Queen of Crime. Although popularised by TV movies starring Peter Ustinov, and later David Suchet, as the Belgian super-sleuth, Hercule Poirot, her page- turners have been adapted for the silver screen since 1928. This long-standing celebration of her work raises the question: is there anything left to explore?
Transpose British tales of bloody murder amongst decadent elite social circles into the quaint rural landscape of late 1930s France and we realise there is plenty of room left for investigation.
Never would the foreign location in France 2′s Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie (The Little Murders of Agatha Christie) alienate Christie fans as her work comes back to life in the coastal Calais region one of many nods to the narrative's culturally British origins, and a tactic favoured by New Wave filmmaker Claude Chabrol. The 1930s setting also delivers nuances of anxiety to an already foreboding atmosphere.
Eccentric Commissaire Larosière (Antoine Duléry), and reluctant apprentice, Inspecteur Lampion (Marius Colucci) replace Christie's iconic sleuths in these re-imagined adaptations while providing the series' greatest quality that separates it from her original work: the womanising Larosière, a relic of the old world, soon discovers that Lampion is gay. Yet, despite homosexuality being a highly taboo subject during the period, Larosière not only accepts it but their unspoken bond blooms into an endearing father-son relationship.
In 2012, the Larosière/Lampion duo sadly came to an unexpected close. However, last year we were introduced to the new unlikely couple, this time set in the Rock'n'Roll 1950s: another womanising detective, Commissaire Laurence (Samuel Labarthe) and meddling reporter, Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir).
While this odd-couple's relationship has yet to mature to the same depth as their predecessors, their chemistry is unblemished. Although both highly entertaining, the true hero of this comeback series is Laurence's pin-up secretary, Marlène (Elodie Frenck), an enchanting yet somewhat dim Marilyn Monroe à la Française.
Not only does Les Petits Meurtres d'Agatha Christie successfully navigate the perilous terrain of adapting a celebrated British institution abroad, but it makes for a revitalising experience all while remaining loyal to the genre's conventions. If it somehow makes it across the Channel, it is certainly worth a watch.
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