Monday, October 04, 2010

Movie: Inspector Bellamy (U.S. 2010)

The fiftieth and, alas, final film from the late Claude Chabrol is dedicated to “the two Georges.” One is singer-songwriter Brassens, whose music features in the plot. The other is Chabrol’s confrère Simenon, whose spirit hangs over the proceedings.

Gerard Depardieu’s Inspector Paul Bellamy is a contemporary gloss on Simenon’s Maigret. Good at his job, content in his marriage, given to occasional gustatory excess. He and his wife (the gloriously chic Marie Bunel) are trying to enjoy a well-deserved vacation but must deal with both Bellamy’s ne’er-do-well half-brother and a stranger determined to draw the inspector into his story, which may involve a fugitive fraudster wanted for murder.

Bellamy at times plays like a sketch for a movie more than a finished one. That’s not a criticism so much as an observation on the level of minimalism that Chabrol, at age 80, had achieved. He opens with the Bellamys already accustomed to their mysterious visitor, and he dispenses with transitions almost entirely; scenes end when there’s no more to say and we’re on to the next one. The gossamer plot exists as an excuse for Chabrol to explore his eternal subject, middle-class morality. The best moments are those between Depardieu and Bunel, their long-wed couple still deeply in love but continuing to test each other’s boundaries.

The movie may seem slight, but it sticks with you more than you’d suspect. It’s currently available via IFC On Demand. Here’s the trailer.