Claude Chabrol was one of the young critics-turned-filmmakers who ushered in the Nouvelle Vague in France and never stopped making movies once he started. He earned himself the sobriquet “the Gallic Hitchcock” for the psychologically compelling, emotionally jagged mysteries and thrillers that became his stock in trade over his fifty-year career and when he died in late 2010, he left behind a legacy of some eighty features, shorts pieces and television films made over a fifty year period. And yet it wasn’t until his final feature, Inspector Bellamy, that this grand old man of French cinema collaborated with another enduring French icon: Gerard Depardieu, the former scruffy-but-charming leading man turned bearish veteran with a commanding screen presence. While the lightfingered, offbeat murder mystery may not be one of Chabrol’s greatest works, there are major pleasure to be had in the final film from the old master.
Depardieu is the titular Bellamy, a veteran police detective and minor celebrity thanks to a memoir that an awful lot of folks in this small coastal town have read. He’s ostensibly on vacation with his wife Francoise (Marie Bunel) but as she observes, “Vacation is not in his vocabulary.” Sure enough, he soon drifts into a curious mystery involving an overtly enigmatic man (Jacques Gamblin) in hiding and the wreckage (physical and emotional) of what appears to be a botched attempt at faking his death. Depardieu has ballooned into a hulking bear of an actor but even with all that girth he brings an easy grace to Bellamy, a man who embraces the simple pleasure in life, be it food, cigars, wine or the crossword puzzles that he uses to occupy his wandering mind. In a sense, this mystery is simply a much more engaging challenge, which his wife understands all too well.
Continue reading on Turner Classic Movies here, in a double-shot DVD review shared with Michael Atkinson.