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Film Club: ‘Inspector Bellamy’

Last Chance to See Claude Chabrol’s Last Film

Above: Gerard Depardieu as "Inspector Bellamy."

Audio

Aired 1/26/11

The critics of the KPBS Film Club of the Air discuss Claude Chabrol's "Inspector Bellamy."

French New Waver Claude Chabrol recently passed away but his final film, "Inspector Bellamy" (opened January21 at Reading's Gaslamp 15), is closing out it's run in San Diego. Listen to our KPBS Film CLub of the Air discussion.

In 1958, Claude Chabrol was the first of the young critics at Cahiers du Cinema to make a film and launch the Nouvelle Vague or French New Wave Cinema. He’s always been a subtle stylist with a penchant for exploring relationships in a cool, detached manner. Not surprisingly, he cites Alfred Hitchcock as an influence. His final film, "Inspector Bellamy" has Gerard Depardieu as a French detective on vacation but unable to resist a mystery.

In many of his films, Chabrol has a way of making the most mundane things play out as unsettling. There's always a hint or a suggestion of foreboding, or a sense of veiled meaning in a gesture or word. He has also revealed a fascination with perversity. All of these signature things are on display in "Inspector Bellamy" but not with quite the kind of supreme deliciousness that I have found in earlier films. "Inspector Bellamy" feels like a mature work and more about craftsmanship than the perversity and slyness that I have come to love from him.

But "Inspector Bellamy" (in French with English subtitles) is still a beautifully crafted film with a compelling and enjoyable performance by Depardieu.

Companion viewing: "Merci Pour Le Chocolat," "Flower of Evil," "The Bridesmaid"

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Claude Chabrol directed over 70 movies and TV shows. This is his 50th film. Scott, tell us something about him.

SCOTT MARKS: All right, we got a few minutes of I gotta talk fast the. Claude Chabrol started out as a critic for Cahier du cinema, the ground breaking French film magazine and became a director. He's been called the French Hitchcock, but you know, after 50 films and 20 television shows, I think the guy can stand -- his representation can stand on its own. This is a brilliant film. You watch this film and everything else pales in comparison. His direction in this film is absolutely flawless. It's another one of his moral inquisitions, and this one is directed at a very leisurely pace, and it invites you to observe everything in the frame. [CHECK AUDIO] here is a textbook example of how to do this. Each one of the sets that these characters occupy comment on their personality, their lifestyle, everything about them. You go into the interior decorator's home, and you see how hideous the decor is, that tells you so much about this character. And the film is just loaded with the points like that. He gets the killer's phone number and he writes it down on the same page that he's doing a cross word puzzle like it's another puzzle to solve. And I love it in the beginning when he says to his wife, Bellamy sees all. And it's true. You watch [CHECK AUDIO] except the one inside himself, that five minutes before the film ends in 3 or 4 sentences of exposition, his entire character motivation is explained. This is a brilliant piece of film making if you like detective film, suspense films this is for you. You gotta see this movie.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Anders and both, we have a very limited time period.

MARKS: Sorry folks.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So if you could tell me, do you agree?

ANDERS WRIGHT: Well, there's so much that I like here. But not the least of which is Depardieu's performance of he has grown --

BETH ACCOMANDO: He's twice the man he used to be.

WRIGHT: Literally --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, fat jokes.

WRIGHT: But he's so charismatic and holds the screen completely. I was not particularly interested in the case he's trying to solve as I was in his own life because so much of what he seems to be trying to do is avoid what's actually going on in himself.

ACCOMANDO: I liked it too. I wish that a film like Merci Pour le Chocolat, or the Bridesmaid were his last time. I liked those better because they had a lot more of the perversity that I enjoy from him.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some reviews that I read said, you know, if he had to have a last film, this really wasn't his best. But I know, Scott, that you do not agree with that. Of.

MARKS: No, I think Claude Chabrol, when you look back at his career, who would have thought that he would be the one to have the longest and most fertile career? This guy was pretty much directing up until the day that he died. [CHECK AUDIO] there was just something about the energy and the vitality that this man brought to a film at the age of 80 that is just so -- and a maturity, when it comes to knowing how to tell a story with a camera that is just absent in contemporary Hollywood film making.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Inspector Bellamy is currently playing at the Redding gas lamp theatres. I want to thank Beth Accomando, Anders Wright, Scott Marks, come back, and be with us next time. All the way from Burbank. And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, KPBS.org These Days. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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