Death and Depardieu in Inspector Bellamy

12/23/2010 12:03 PM |

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The Best Of lists are finished; the polls, voted in. But Henry Stewart is still scrambling to catch up with some of the movies he missed in 2010, at least so he can tell you whether to bump them up in your queue or feel guilt-free for deleting them. Today, he discusses Claude Chabrol’s swan song, Inspector Bellamy.

You could almost call this movie Inspector Nick Charles: though it’s peppered with minor profundities, it’s an airy trifle—a warmly written and acted jumble of character studies. Claude Chabrol reportedly wrote this engaging, popular-appeal potboiler for star Gerard Depardieu who, now thick with age (and a nose like Karl Malden, mon dieu!!), plays a famous-but-retired police detective pulled into a Chandler-esque mystery, filled in with fleshed-out characters—as per usual with Chabrol, the story is far less important than the people in it. (The story includes a lot of fraternal bickering, sibling rivalry with a no-good brother who, in the film’s best joke, arrives in the middle of the night with ominous Tchaikovsky music blaring…from the taxi! “Could you turn that down please?”)

The mystery unfolds slowly, with Depardieu putting the pieces together as if for sport—as if, what else would he do while on vacation? And they come easily; there are no twists here, and certainly no surprises. Instead, you get a missing-persons case and a cop’s life whose small details start to parallel one another slightly, as if the two are bleeding into each other. It suggests something about how art and life share a porous border, strengthened by the fact that the movie opens in a cemetery, with a shot of a decorated grave stone, through which the camera winds before landing upon a corpse. How’s that for the opening of the last film you’ll make before you die?