Wednesday, 7 January 2015


In the 1950s, Commissaire Jules Maigret, a laconic, pipe-smoking French policeman, uses his profound knowledge of human nature to solve crimes. Volume 2 of the TV series Maigret (1991-2005), the definitive adaptation of the character created by novelist Georges Simenon, is available since last month in France on DVD.

The set from Koba Films contains eight episodes of the 54 feature-length installments starring the great Bruno Cremer as the detective.

« Monsieur le commissaire. Il ne faut pas m'en vouloir. C'est pour moi l'occasion d'en apprendre sur votre fameuse méthode.
- Mais j'ai pas de méthode. Et pour l'instant je ne sais rien. » 

English producer Steve Hawes, former head of drama at Granada Television, and French producers Eve Vercel and Robert Nador of Dune Production, devised Maigret for French pubcaster Antenne 2/France 2 when the channel axed Les enquêtes du commissaire Maigret (1967-1990) with Jean Richard to give its familiar figure a fresh start. Movie, stage and TV actor Bruno Cremer accepted the iconic role after due reflection, for 12 episodes only.

To radically differ from the previous version, the producers decided to set theirs in the Fifties with a cinematic feel, hence a budget that required co-production with Swiss and Belgian televisions, French private channel La 5 (declared bankrupt in 1992) and EC Télévision Paris. But also filming in Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic (which became an essential production partner) or Finland. Even South Africa and Cuba for some later entries.

Laurent Petitgirard composed and conducted the magnificent theme of Maigret, and the superb music of most of the series. Semi-regular cast includes Anne Bellec (Mme Maigret), Jean-Claude Frissung (Janvier) and Éric Prat (Torrence).

- La patience de Maigret (1993). Helmed by Polish director Andrzej Kostenko. Adapted by playwright Gildas Bourdet and Andrzej Kostenko from The Patience of Maigret. Agnès Soral (Aline Bauche), actor/director Claude Faraldo (Manuel Palmari) and Raoul Delfosse (le directeur de la PJ) return in this average follow-up to the weak Maigret se défend (1993). Swiss actor Fernand Berset plays le juge Ancelin

- Maigret et l'homme du banc (1993). Directed by Belgian filmmaker Étienne Périer. Adapted by Jean-Pierre Sinapi and Daniel Tonacchela from Maigret and the Man on the Boulevard. A man is stabbed to death. His widow tells Maigret that the body's tie and yellow shoes are not his. Périer definitely brings the series back on track. With Marie Dubois (Mme Thouret), Andréa Ferréol (Mariette), Julie Jézéquel (Monique) and Fred Personne (Saimbron). Samuel Le Bihan plays a young inspector.

« Je ne vois vraiment pas où vous voulez en venir, commissaire.
- Ah mais moi non plus, maître. Vous savez, au début d'une enquête on est dans le noir. On tatonne. »  

- Maigret et les témoins récalcitrants (1993). Directed by Michel Sibra. Adapted by Christian Rullier et Michel Sibra from Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses. Léonard Lachaume, head of a biscuit factory, is found dead on his bed. An excellent episode where Denise Chalem (Solange) and Christiane Cohendy (Véronique) portray their characters with subtlety.

- Maigret et le fantôme (1994). Filmed in Finland by director Hannu Kahakorpi. Adapted by Henri de Turenne and Akli Tadjer from Maigret and the Ghost. Maigret flies to Helsinki in order to discover what Inspector Lognon was doing in Finland before someone tried to kill him. Heinz Bennent (Junker), Elizabeth Bourgine (Mirella) and Timmo Torikka (Ari) are amongst the guest cast. This co-production with Finnish channel TV1 astutely brings the quintessential French detective where you don't expect him.

- Maigret et l'écluse N°1 (1994). Directed by Olivier Schatzky. Adapted by Christian Rullier from The Lock at Charenton. French comedian, actor and director Jean Yanne delivers a brilliant performance as Émile Ducrau (« Entre une boniche qui a pas inventé les bulles et une femme qui pense qu'à son ménage, j'suis gâté moi. »), a rich owner of barges and quarries. Georges Staquet is perfect as Gassin in one of the best episodes of the whole series.

- Cécile est morte (1994). Directed by Denys de la Patellière. Adapted by Alexandre & Denys de la Patellière and Christian Watton from Maigret and the Spinster. Cécile, a young woman, regularly complains to Maigret about strange visits at her house during the night. Soon her aunt is strangled and Cécile is found dead not far from the police headquarters. Claude Piéplu, true to form, carries this very good installment as disbarred lawyer Charles Dandurand.

- La tête d'un homme (1994). Adapted from A Battle of Nerves by Christian Rullier and helmed by Czech director Jujaj Herz. Terrible, except for the presence of the talented Emmanuel Salinger as Radek. Marisa Berenson plays Mrs Crosby.

« C'est un homme comme vous que j'aurais dû épouser, commissaire.
- Trop tard. »
- Maigret se trompe (1994). Adapted from Maigret's Mistake, this beaufiful portrait de femmes from director Joyce Bunuel and writer Dominique Roulet concludes the box set. With Danielle Lebrun (Mme Gouin), Bernadette Lafont (Mme Brault), Brigitte Catillon (Antoinette Ollivier), Anny Romand (Mlle Decaux) and François Perrot (Docteur Gouin).

The eight episodes of this DVD set from Koba Films are on four discs. French subtitles for the hearing impaired are available. (An interview of Étienne Périer for MHz, which airs Maigret in the U.S.)

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