Maigret – movie review

Hercule Poirot step aside; for Chief Inspector Jules Maigret is on the case. In director Patrice Leconte’s Maigret, Gerard Depardieu takes on the title role as an ageing, unwell cop trying to track down a murderer.

It’s Paris, 1953 and a young woman has been found dead. The victim, Louise Louviere (Clara Antoons), is no older than 20. At the start of the movie, she tries on a stylish gown. An angry confrontation follows. Now she’s dead, having been stabbed five times. The clues are sparse, but Maigret is crafty. He soon discovers that Louise was (like many other young women) longing for the bright lights of the French capital but ended up in rough surrounds being exploited. She had sub-let an apartment from a small time actress, Jeanine Armenieu (Melanie Bernier). Jeanine had entered the biz thanks to her arrogant businessman fiance, Laurent Clermont-Valois (Pierre Moure).

On the night Louise died, she was involved in a confrontation with Jeanine and Laurent. Also apparently pulling the strings behind the scenes is Laurent’s affluent mother, Madame Clermont-Valois (Aurore Clement). Just what happened though isn’t clear though until Maigret befriends another newcomer to town, 21-year-old Betty (Jade Labeste). She bears a striking resemblance to Louise.

The script for Maigret is the work of co-writer (with Jerome Tennerre) and Leconte, working from a book by Georges Simenon. An air of foreboding permeates the work. I appreciated the production design and the period detail. There are a few red herrings thrown in, but fundamentally it’s a police procedural. Maigret is painted as world-weary, while the younger characters are far more skittish. Maigret’s affinity for Betty is explained as the film unfolds and relates not only to Louise’s death but to something in his personal life.

Gerard Depardieu is solid as the central character around whom the action unfolds. Jade Labeste has a bit of get up and go in her. She takes advantage of the anti-establishment streak in her character.

While it hardly set the world on fire for me, I quite liked Maigret. An added bonus is that it reaches its conclusion in a neat 89 minutes.  That’s quite a change from the bloated two hour plus movies that seem common these days.

Alex First

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