REVIEW / FILM REVIEW: Almost 60 years after “Maigret sees red” with Jean Gabin, the legendary commissioner finds an incarnation in the cinema with Gérard Depardieu, directed by Patrice Leconte in “Maigret”. A film captivating by its good measure, and which perfectly succeeds its intentions.
Maigret, the legend is back
How to tell Commissioner Maigret in the cinema? How to tell it quite short elsewhere? With the monumental literary corpus of Georges Simenon, with his now fifteen films and numerous television series, few fictional characters have such fame and been the subject of so many adaptations. We said to ourselves that there was a certain risk in embarking on a new film adaptation, which would necessarily offer serious comparisons.
But to stage the novel “Maigret and the dead girl“, adapted a previous time in 1973 in the French series with Jean Richard, Patrice Leconte and his screenwriter Jérôme Tonnerre have chosen simplicity, application, and conciseness, without apparent concern for performance. And so it is, almost paradoxically, that they succeed with Maigret a film that borders on perfection.
Maigret investigates the death of a young girl. There is nothing to identify her, no one seems to have known her or remember her. He meets a delinquent, who strangely resembles the victim, and awakens in him the memory of another disappearance, older and more intimate…
Patrice Leconte in Masters
To realize the Maigret project he has had for a long time, Patrice Leconte will have waited, and almost disappeared since An hour of tranquility in 2014 – if we put aside his participation in the collective film poor bastards in 2019.
But the one who made his first feature film in 1976 with The Veces was closed from the inside time seems to have little hold, and its Maigret is the manifestation that he has lost none of his talents. The equation is simple: an intriguing detective story, a great actor, a camera that follows him with precision and discretion.
Maigret has a sober, elegant format. We are far from the frenzy of the saga of tanned like delicious subtleties of Ridiculous, but it has the same strength. There is evidence in Maigretwhich comes from its perfect measure and very clear direction. Maigret is not the opening of a series of films, nor is it a composition of references in homage to past adaptations. It is designed entirely for itself as if it were to be the first and the last, the only “Maigret” film.
Relatively short, with a duration of 1h28, Maigret aims for the essential, without ever offering a formal aside to delight the aesthetic sense, nor digression in his discourse to give himself a contemporary background. The music by Bruno Coulais and Michael Nyman, the setting, the photography, the script, everything contributes to the sole definition of the curator, in this single story.
Gérard Depardieu in majesty
To the question “Can Gérard Depardieu play Commissioner Maigret?”, the answer was a priori “Yes and a posteriori this “yes” is pure evidence. With his hat, his pipe which he keeps in hand but no longer smokes – recommended by his doctor (Hervé Pierre) -, with his long coat, the actor embodies the legendary commissioner with a fascinating naturalness. He doesn’t talk much, never loses his temper, thinks in silence. As he says, he does not judge, but he simply seeks to understand. Gérard Depardieu is ideal in the role as if we had already seen him there a thousand times.
Magic of the direction of Patrice Leconte and the interpretation of Gérard Depardieu, the personality and the intimate history of the curator are revealed in half-words, in glances and silences, in particular during a very nice sequence with André Wilms. At this moment, and another shared with his wife (Anne Loiret), we guess the dark past decade – the plot takes place in the 1950s – and his shared suffering.
In addition, the actresses Jade Lebeste, Mélanie Bernier, Clara Antoons, and Aurore Clément perfectly play the victims and the criminals of this police intrigue. They thus manage to exist in this system, where everything orbits around the star Maigret. What was not guaranteed with such a character and such an actor?