DRAMA; 1hr 26min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Gérard Depardieu, Jade Labeste
Low profile: Depardieu
It is often said that the 1950s were a simpler time, but nothing is simple for Inspector Jules Maigret (Depardieu) of the Paris police in director Patrice Leconte’s elegant procedural. Jules Amédée François Maigret is a man of many faces — among other heavy hitters, Charles Laughton, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon and Rowan Atkinson have all pounded his cerebral beat. For 73-year-old Depardieu’s world-weary sleuth, its every step and gesture is an effort compounded by too many pipes and white wines. None of which slows him down when in 1953 an anonymous young girl in a hired designer ballgown turns up dead in the 9th arrondissement’s Place Vintimille.
The stylish waif was stabbed after attending an engagement party at which she was less than welcome. Maigret is unaware of the party at first, although it doesn’t take him long, terrier that he is, to determine the identity of the girl. The subsequent journey of discovery, adapted by Leconte and his co-screenwriter, Jérôme Tonnerre, from Georges Simenon’s 1954 novel Maigret et la jeune morte (“Maigret and the Dead Girl”), is a mood board of shady layers through which the portly gumshoe will amble, inscrutable and unstoppable. His dispiriting mission, “to search for what’s called the truth,” will lead him via a thicket of denials from genteel poverty to the haut monde, and en route to another solitary girl (Labeste as Betty) who could almost be the dead girl’s twin and to whom Maigret is poignantly drawn. In a microcosm so drastically bleak, where even the sunlight looks chilly and wan, his penetrating brain is an unblinking beam of light.