There’s a melancholic mantle to MAIGRET, Patrice Leconte’s pensive policier based on Georges Simenon’s eponymous sleuth.
Gerard Depardieu puts his own indelible stamp on one of the most beloved characters from 20th century crime fiction, the titular Inspector Jules Maigret via a contemplative crime drama from director Patrice Leconte, famously known as the helmer of Monsieur Hire, The Girl On The Bridge and Ridicule.
Set in Paris, a few years after World War II, the body of a beautiful young woman is discovered, dressed in an elegant evening gown. There is nothing to identify her, and no witnesses. Pensive and world-weary Inspector Jules Maigret endeavours to piece together her story, and in doing so uncovers details about her past and character. During his investigation, he encounters Betty, a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to the victim, and also triggers tragic memories closer to home.
True to its roots, a source material that has stood the test of time and countless cinematic renditions, MAIGRET takes some cinematic liberties while giving full reign to Depardieu to amply flesh out the sympathetic sleuth, a detective attuned to the defective aspects of human frailty, an observant listener, a pursuer of truth but not a dispenser of judgement.
In perhaps his best work in years, Depardieu makes a big impression as this beloved pipe smoking sleuth, bringing a dogged dignity to the detective embodying and evoking Simenon’s description “Maigret, heavy and slow, gave a feeling of immobility. He was there like a sponge, slowly soaking up everything that was oozing out around him.”
Maigret does not go looking for the assassin so much as for this young girl stabbed with a knife that no one seems to know. The quest to identify the victim and not the perpetrator is paramount, the plot all the more poignant since Maigret himself would have had a daughter of that age if she had still been alive. And the presence of Betty and his innate protection of her, has the film verging on Vertigo
MAIGRET is not a thriller in the classic sense, with investigation,clues, resolution, but about obsessions, darkness, and humanity, delivered in a nifty ninety minute package.