The French language film Inspector Bellamy (2009) brings together two greats of French cinema: Gérard Depardieu, and Claude Chabrol. Inspector Bellamy was the 50th and final film directed by Chabrol.
Inspector Bellamy is a stately-paced whodunit. The renowned inspector Bellamy (Depardieu) and his wife (played by the wonderful, Mary Steenburgen look alike Marie Bunel) are vacationing when a disturbed man (Jacques Gamblin) interrupts their peace. The man, inspired, we are told, by having read Bellamy’s memoirs, asks the inspector to sort out a murder he might or might not have committed. The good inspector, unable to resist a mystery, agrees to help and so starts the story’s chain of events.
Soon afterward, the inspector’s ne’er-do-well younger brother (Clovis Cornillac) joins the couple which sets in motion a secondary plot line, filled with sibling rivalry and hints of illicit sex. The two story arcs intertwine for the remainder of the film.
The movie is not much of a whodunit. The inspector, acting as a private investigator, quickly establishes the facts of the incident and spends the bulk of his time analyzing motives. This is part of the film’s charm but also its biggest weakness. The film has no interest in investigative procedures. Naturally occurring questions are blithely ignored or glossed over. We are left with the inspector’s penetrating analysis of the human heart.
Luckily the film does have a big heart and I was willingly carried wherever the inspector led. This is a study of manners; this is not a hard-bitten American detective story. There are no gun battles and the only punches thrown are by the brothers at one another. Just as the inspector studies the motives of those involved in the crime, the viewer is invited to study the motives of the inspector, his wife, and his brother.
I watched the Netflix-provided movie on my Nexus 7 tablet. The movie is rated a lowly 2 stars on Netflix. I gave it 3 stars with points off for its too slow pace and contrived ending.
If you like French film (I do), and if you like Depardieu (I do) and Chabrol, you will like Inspector Bellamy.