Archive for March 17, 2023

Maigret’s Anatomy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2023 by dcairns

Something about the plot construction in Continental Films’ Maigret movies results in them being hard to remember in detail. I’ve now seen the middle film, CECILE EST MORT!, directed by Maurice Tourneur, twice, and my lingering impression is of fun characterisation, complex plotting, and a few particular moments, but I couldn’t summarise it for you. Usually we judge films to be unusually successful when they linger in the memory, but these ones defy that truism — the compensation is that they’re giddily unpredictable as they unfold before you.

Once again Albert Prejean is Inspector Maigret and André Gabriello is his breathless accomplice Lucas. Once again Maigret is the only competent man on the force, which tends to arrest defenseless, innocent, and socially disadvantaged suspects and force confessions from them while Maigret is occupied catching the real culprit. This is as close to anti-copaganda as anyone could produce in Nazi-occupied France, though of course the fact that Maigret is around to insure no miscarriage of justice goes uncorrected does lessen the blow. Still, it’s surprisingly bold. Continental being a German company, they seem to have suffered less from censorship than the French outfits.

What I remember of the plot: there’s a headless body; a corpse turns up in a cupboard, as in both the other films of the series; Lucas rushes up with exciting news but talks to fast to be understood, as in both the other films; Maigret has already figured out the development Lucas is trying to inform him of, as in etc; a clue is discovered written in condensation on a mirror, as in Argento’s DEEP RED; sinister stuff with unknown intruders secretly inhabiting someone’s home, as in LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON, an even better Continental Films Simenon adaptation; use of dental anesthetic by bad guys.

I’ve never mastered mystery writing — you have to write them backwards, it seems, starting with what really happened and then burying that under obfuscating layers which are themselves laden with dramatic suspense. Simenon is really good at it — I’d like to read the three books Continental adapted to see how faithful they are, but I’m afraid by the time I do it the plots will all have got jumbled in my head. Already I can’t recall which one has the blind man who’s killed because he saw too much.

Tourneur’s direction lacks the fancy flourishes of Richard Pottier’s in the other two installments, but his love of creative shadowplay is in evidence, giving the film a nice noirish look.

A box set would be nice!