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As every year, chief inspector Paul Bellamy spends a few days with his wife Françoise in the family house in Nîmes. Jacques, Paul's stepbrother, turns up unawares, which is bad news since the fellow is an alcoholic good for nothing. Also annoying is this stranger at bay who asks Bellamy for protection. Farewell peaceful holiday!Written by
Unlike in most frantic American crime stories, France's Inspector Bellamy leisurely rambles about its characters as if they were the story, not the crime. And indeed they are: Inspector Paul Bellamy (Gerard Depardieu) is as uncomfortable with the crime subject's different personas as he is with his own past, most notably with his half-brother, Jacques Lebas (Clovie Cornillac), who shows up to renew their sibling rivalry.
"French Hitchcock" director Claude Chabrol selects each shot for its maximum information, frequently illuminating more than one character, more than one motive. For the French, the highest incentive for crime or a happy life seems to be love, and Chabrol explores the various twists infidelity and family can toss into the crime solving mix. True to his New Wave roots, Chabrol lards each image with meaning while couching the story in a languid realism, less edgy now than years ago, but still full of life's ironies while life is lived out in an almost mundane fashion.
More interesting than the multiple personalities of the suspect is the intimate dance of the hero, Bellamy, and his attractive wife, Francoise (Marie Bunel), who provides him with intellectual companionship, sexual longing, and a bit of jealousy for good measure. The lovely chemistry between Depardieu and Bunel reminds me of how authentic a good character study like this can be in the hands of a master director. While Depardieu has developed a belly beyond reason, he still delivers the emotional goods, just as retired Inspector Bellamy can successfully solve a crime.
Imagine all this richness without discernible CGI. For good reason: The emphasis is on the husband-wife relationship, not the crime. So it is in most European cinema, or at least it seems that way to an American critic who has seen enough of his country's gadget-centered films.
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