Thursday, 25 April 2013


A man is found dead on the beach of Saint-Malo, buried up to his neck in the sand and drowned by the rising tide. Adjudant-chef Eric Vautier, of the Gendarmerie, is reluctant to share the investigation with police officer Lieutenant Gwenaële Garrec from Rennes.

He's even skeptic when she identifies the modus operandi as a torture practiced by 17th century local pirates. But Gwen knows a lot about their history, which proves useful for Vautier because the case is linked to a treasure hunt. Death strikes again and some answers could be hidden on the Mont-Saint-Michel and in the lieutenant's past.

« Je ne voudrais pas passer pour un guignol auprès du boulet que la P.J. de Rennes nous a mis dans les pattes.
- Moi aussi je suis enchantée de vous rencontrer. »

The versatile and talented Bruno Solo (Blood on the Docks, the Vérité si je mens franchise) and Louise Monot (OSS 117: Lost in Rio) star as the effective detective duo of Meurtres à Saint-Malo, a very good mystery/crime TV movie written and directed by Lionel Bailliu (Elodie Bradford, the Academy award-nominated short Squash) for French pubcaster France 3. Monot finds the right tone as the erudite lieutenant hit by a personal drama and Solo is perfect as the grumpy gendarme who has to cope with his wife's precocious Alzheimer.

« Je vous comprends très bien. Il faut beaucoup de courage pour renoncer à l'espoir. »

The well-crafted plot keeps the 17th pirate part of the story strictly in the background for the sake of the whodunit and its welcomed couple of twists. There are small doses of humour and of required "police action". Bailliu also aptly takes advantage of the Saint-Malo and Mont-Saint-Michel locations. Meurtres à Saint-Malo is produced by Iris Bucher for Quad Television with AT-Production, R.T.B.F. (Belgian television), France Télévisions, TV5Monde and the support of Région Bretagne and the Centre national du cinéma et de l'image animée. The music is by Laurent Juillet.

The supporting cast includes Micky Sébastian and Patrick RaynalSwann Arlaud plays Gwenaële Garrec's brother Loïc, Lety Pardalys is Nicole Vautier, Thierry Barbet is Guyvarch (Vautier's second in command) and Loïc Baylacq is eye-patched repo man Le Goff. Aired last tuesday by France 3, Meurtres à Saint-Malo brilliantly came as the unexpected rating challenger of CSI (aired by TF1) with 4.770.000 viewers (17.8%). This TV movie, distributed by AB International Distribution, really deserves a subsequent series.

In French:

Wednesday, 3 April 2013


North of France at the end of the 1950s. Freshly transferred commissaire Laurence is called to investigate a murder at La Main tendue, a rehabilitation center for mentally ill persons, much to his irritation.

Alice Avril writes the broken hearts' column for regional paper La Voix du Nord and dreams to become a reporter. When Laurence refuses to share with her information about the murder she goes undercover at La Main tendue and gets a maid job.

« Alice Avril, reporter à La Voix du Nord. J'enquête sur le meurtre à La Main tendue.
- Ce sont les flics qui enquêtent. Les journalistes pissent de la copie.»

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders") is a French adaptation of Agatha Christie's stories as a period crime comedy-drama 90-minute series with two local sleuths instead of  her detectives. Launched in 2009 on France 2 and initially set in the 1930's north of France, it starred Antoine Duléry as the epicurian and womanizing commissaire Larosière and Marius Colucci as his gay assistant inspecteur Lampion until 2012. The duo, whose cases caught between 4m and above 5m viewers, bowed out last autumn. Nevertheless, Les petits meurtres continues and last week Jeux de glaces introduced a new tandem in the 1950s: commissaire Swan Laurence performed by Samuel Labarthe (of the Comédie-Française) and reporter Alice Avril, played by Blandine Bellavoir (Maison close, Plus belle la vie).

« Le manque d'oxygène déteriore le cerveau mais encore faut-il en avoir un. Vous ne risquez absolument rien. »

Adapted from They Do It with Mirrors by Sylvie Simon, who created the two characters with Thierry Debroux, this episode is chiefly focused on the unlikely team up of the uber elegant, cynical cop with the tenacious female journo. Laurence is dressed like Cary Grant, talks like Gregory House or Sacha Guitry (« C'est le mariage qui m'ennuie. »), and drives a chic sports car (1) like Simon Templar. Samuel Labarthe steals Jeux de glaces with the best lines (« Vous avez peut-être un physique de boniche mais il faut du talent pour transformer une fouine en taupe. ») and his on-screen chemistry with Blandine Bellavoir is perfect. Although Avril should evolve from this kind of adult Nancy Drew to be as interesting as Lampion. At least she's more lucky than Marlène, the stereotypical scatterbrain blonde secretary played by Elodie Frenck in a full La Minute Blonde mode (2). Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie wins in comedy what it loses in subtlety.

The result is different from the Larosière/Lampion era but it remains very enjoyable. The sets look lavish and the locations, including the château de Pittefaux near Boulogne-sur-Mer, are beautiful. Both the main cast and the guest cast (Catherine Mouchet, Olivier Rabourdin, etc...) are excellent. Helmed by resident Petits meurtres director Eric Woreth, Jeux de glaces won a Pyrénées d’Or of the Best Series (tied with Lazy Company) at the Luchon's Festival of Television Creation. The music, as usual, is by film and TV composer Stéphane Moucha (Das Leben der Anderen). Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Sophie Révil's Escazal Films with the support of Région Nord-Pas-de-Calais, TV5 Monde and France Télévisions.

This friday France 2 airs Meurtre au champagne, another Laurence/Avril, adapted from Sparkling Cyanide.

(1) A Facel-Vega Facellia ( - In French).
(2) A 2004-2006 short sequence of a Canal Plus talkshow with Frédérique Bel as Dorothy Doll, the epitome of the dumb blonde stereotype.

In French:

See also: