Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Inspector Bellamy

Before the movie started--the lights were up and people were still talking freely--I shot off a quick text message to a friend. I then put my phone in my pocket (the volume was already off) and watched the remaining trailers. The announcement then came up that asked patrons to please not use use their cell phones to talk or text during the movie and I heard the woman behind me croak "no texting" from a larynx that sounded as if it hadn't met with a drop of water in four days. It was clear that the utterance was meant for me. I wanted to turn around and confront her, saying that I was fully capable of reading and do not have trouble following the polite requests made by movie theaters. Once the lights are down I'm a perfect angel. If I see a cell phone light up during a movie my blood immediately begins to boil.

So, anyway, INSPECTOR BELLAMY begins. Mere minutes into the film I hear the woman's purse behind me: ZIIIIPPPPPPPPPP! Then she begins to blindly root around in it, jingling keys and change. Then Gerard Depardieu shows up on screen. "That's Gerard Depardieu," she says to the man accompanying her. "Look how fat he is." "Yeah, he's fat now," the man agrees. These penetrating insights continued sporadically for twenty or so minutes before they finally settled in and shut up. Perhaps the idea that they were in a movie theater had finally soaked in. This was the same woman who was worried about the possibility that I would whip out my phone and, like a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl, start texting during a movie that, gee, might require my full attention. It's easy to point the finger at technology, as annoying and invasive as it can be at the movies, but let's not forget the number one sin: flapping your stupid gums while other people are trying to watch.

I like Claude Chabrol. If his name is attached to a movie, I will make a point to see it. You could consider me a fan. INSPECTOR BELLAMY is, due to the director's death last September, Chabrol's last film and the first one I have had the opportunity to see in the theater. Unfortunately for me, I slept poorly the night before and during the first hour of the film caught myself dozing off several times. I missed very little, since each time I awoke immediately as soon as I felt my neck go slack.

The movie has a very Claude Chabrol feel to it. Though they call him the Hitchcock of France, his movies are really not much like those of Hitchcock. They are looser, elliptical, with the mystery taking a back seat to the quieter moments reserved for character study. Though it is not a huge ensemble piece, there are many characters in the movie, including two that for reasons of plotting look a great deal alike. Keeping things straight was a bit difficult for me, due to my series of micro-naps. Even during the last hour of the film, when I had come to, I felt that the film was always a step (if not two) ahead of me. There are essentially two plots to follow. The murder plot, the more complex of the two, is buried behind the family drama involving Bellamy, his wife, and his brother. All in all, the ending was satisfying. The relationship between Bellamy and his wife was endearing and sweet. The moments involving death were nicely done and appeared in sunny, natural settings that might be thought of as mundane were it not for their beauty. But, in all honesty, I'd have to watch it again to get a better understanding of what exactly happened.

This, though, I have found is typical with a lot of Chabrol's films. You're waiting for the PSYCHO shower scene and it doesn't show up--at least not when you think it will. He examines suspense from a different angle. I've probably seen twenty or so (out of the seventy he made!) and I'd rank this one somewhere in the top half. The first of his films that I saw, LA CEREMONIE, happens to be my favorite. It sent me out in search of his other work and merited a couple of re-watches. Rest In Peace, Claude. If there is a silver lining it's that I still have about fifty of your movies still left on my checklist.

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