Monday, 13 September 2021

FACE À FACE - EPISODE 1 (FRANCE 2)

One is a judge, the other a cop. They're half-sisters and can't stand each other. They work together and must live in the same house. 
 
An American sitcom of the 1980s? No, a 12 x 52 minute crime drama for France 2.
 
Face à face (formerly En quête de vérité) stars Claire Borotra (La vengeance aux yeux clairs, Le mystère du lac) as Judge Justine Rameau and Constance Gay (Unité 42) as Commander Vanessa Tancelin. Their co-stars are Pascal Demolon (Commissaire Alain Rameau), Marc Ruchmann (Plan Coeur, Le chalet) as Captain Grégory Kieffer and Clémentine Justine (Claire Sorel). The series was created by Anne-Charlotte Kassab (Léo Matteï, brigade des mineurs, Unité 42), Nassim Ben Allal (Les Chamois, Al Dorsey, détective privé) and Yann Le Gal (Léo Matteï, brigade des mineurs, Soupçons). 
 
Written by Anne-Charlotte Kassab and Nassim Ben Allal with Yann Le gal, Episode 1 is actually the first of two one-hour pilots directed by Julien Zidi (Le crime lui va si bien, Perfect Murders) (1). The character played by Marc Ruchmann is credited "Grégory Marchois" in this couple of episodes. A man finds the dead body of another man on an office floor. He puts the cadaver on a chair and pushes him through a window. Vanessa Tancelin, a maverick police officer freshly transferred to Strasbourg, arrives on the crime scene. The victim, who fell from the 5th floor of a business incubator, was an architect.
 
Tancelin notices the first man, who stayed around, and arrests him after a chase without her shoes. Then, an article of the Code de procédure pénale pops up on our screen because someone probably thought it was a good idea. Commander Tancelin meets Justine Rameau, the juge d'instruction on the case. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship or a revival of TF1's long-running crime drama hit Femmes de loi (2) but there's a catch. Well, only for Justine who ignores that Vanessa is her half-sister. Édouard Koenig, their father who's a judge too, didn't tell her and now she's confronted with the truth as poor Édouard dies in front of them before a triple bypass surgery. 
 
Both women are shocked, though Justine Rameau's husband learns about this new member of the family rather gracefully. After all, Alain Rameau is Vanessa Tancelin's boss. On the contrary, Justine can't cope with the presence of her half-sister. She doesn't tell her the day of Édouard's funeral and Vanessa retaliates by moving in Justine Rameau's family house. The rigorous judge starts a personal and professional war against the instinctive cop. This first hour of Face à face painfully dilutes a generic police procedural, "sold" by a far-fetched concept (3), into a family melodrama. 
 
With the participation of Alain Doutey (Édouard Koenig) and Agnès Soral. Also with Éric Savin (Cédric Rouget), Charles Templon (Nicolas Gauvin), Slimane Yefsah (Alexandre Baranes), Emma Ninucci (Margaux Rameau), etc. Produced by Troisième Oeil Story and France Télévisions with RTL TVI and RTS (Radio Télévision Suisse). Exec produced by Thierry Langlois and Frédéric Bruneel. Produced by Sidonie Cohen de Lara and Sébastien Charbit. Ludovic Eyrolle is the production manager. Music by Flemming Nordkrog and Romain Trouillet. Cinematography by Dominique De Wever
 
Filmed with the support of Région Grand Est and Strasbourg Eurométropole. Face à face premiered last month on RTL TVI. Distributed by Mediawan Rights (Mismatch is the international title).
 
(1) Unfortunately, Julien Zidi died in a motorcycle accident in May.
(2) Femmes de loi (2000-2009) was a crime drama centered on a substitut du procureur and a police lieutenant.
(3) "Un crime. Deux visions. L'une veut trouver les coupables, l'autre qu'ils soient condamnés. Instinctive, Vanessa, la flic, s’affranchit des règles pour arrêter les assassins. Procédurière, Justine, la juge, s’assure que le coupable soit condamné. Un seul point commun : leur père. Demi-sœurs, elles sont condamnées à vivre et travailler ensemble." (Press release).
 

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

THIRD MAN OUT: A DONALD STRACHEY MYSTERY (2005, HERE TV)

Donald Strachey is the quintessential private eye, a worthy heir to Philip Marlowe, but with a difference... He's gay. Third Man Out (2005) is the first of four excellent TV movies based on a book series.

Donald Strachey was created by American journalist and author Richard Lipez, who's openly gay, under the pen name Richard Stevenson. Strachey lives in Albany, N.Y. with his longtime partner Timothy "Timmy" Callahan, the aide to a New York state senator, and often investigates cases which concern the local gay community. Sixteen Donald Strachey Mystery novels were published between 1981 and 2019. Oddly, only a quarter were adapted.

« I've heard about you. You're that little Nancy boy Drew running around town causing trouble. »

From 2005 to 2008, U.S. premium LGBT channel Here TV shown four films shot in Canada and starring Chad Allen (Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman) as Donald Strachey and Sebastian Spence (First Wave) as Timothy Callahan: Third Man Out (2005), Shock to the System (2006), On the Other Hand, Death (2008) and Ice Blues (2008). All were helmed by director Ron Oliver (Queer as Folk, Psi Factor). Based on the fourth book, Third Man Out was written by Mark Saltzman.

An unknown shooter tries to kill gay activist John Rutka in his own home. Eddie Santon, his boyfriend, asks private detective Donald Strachey for help. Donald reluctantly accepts the case as Rutka is famous for outing personalities whom he considers hypocritical. He saves his client from a fire in his house but soon thinks that John and Eddie staged the attacks and he decides to quit. When John Rutka is found dead, Strachey faces Santon's reproaches and resumes his investigation. 

For his next target, Rutka was about to choose between congressman Bruno Slinger, TV puppeteer Ronnie Linklater and an unidentified third personality. Third Man Out successfully combines mystery and a film noir atmosphere with romance. Chad Allen is convincing as a P.I. right from his first scene (Strachey's car is an old Toyota Tercel). The romantic aspect of the Donald Strachey films comes from the relationship between Donald and Timmy, influenced by the Thin Man movies (1934-1947) and their husband/wife detective duo Nick and Nora Charles (1).

The chemistry between gay actor Chad Allen outed by a tabloid in 1996 and Sebastian Spence, who's straight, is essential to the charm of these adaptations. Though their characters come from different worlds (Donald has a military past, Timmy's father is a Republican congressman), they are committed to each other and live happily in a house in perpetual renovation with their dog Dr. Watson. A place where the couple always enjoy a Martini at the end of the day.

« Timmy, I think maybe you'd better take Dr. Watson for a walk.
- I just did.
- I think he needs to go again.
- Okay. Excuse me while I out my dog for the good of us all. »

In Third Man Out, Strachey gets to know Albany Police Detective Bub Bailey (Daryl Shuttleworth). He also meets a hotel desk clerk named Kenny Kwon. The role was originally a bit part in the first film but actor Nelson Wong came back in the others, this time to be Donald's assistant. Since Ice Blues, the last Donald Strachey, Wong played characters named "Kenny Kwon" in several Hallmark TV movies directed by Ron Oliver. Fans of both Hallmark Channel and Wong call these participations "the Kennyverse". The latest is A Timeless Christmas (2020). 

John Rutka is played by Canadian stage and TV actor Jack Wetherall (Queer as Folk). Sean Young (Blade Runner) is Ann Rutka. The rest of the cast of Third Man Out includes Woody Jeffreys (Eddie Santon), Matthew Rush (Dik Steele), April Amber Telek (Alice Savage), John Moore (Bishop McFee), Alf Humphries (Father Morgan), P. Lynn Johnson (Senator Dianne Glassman), Kirsten Williamson (DaVinci's Inquest) as  Meredith, David Palffy (Stargate SG-1) as Bruno Slinger, Sean Carey (Ronnie Linklater),  Richard Ian Cox (Black Stallion) as Howie, etc.

Produced by Shavick Entertainment (The New Addams Family), Insight Film and Video Productions Ltd and Barry Krost. Exec produced by Paul Colichman and James Shavick. Randy Zalken is the co-executive producer.  Produced by Kirk Shaw. Stacey Belecos Shaw is the associate producer. Cinematography by C. Kim Miles. Music by Ronnie Way and Bill Cunningham. In Heat, In Love composed by Peter Allen (lyrics by Dave Hudgins) and performed by Sibel Thrasher, who appears in the film.

Martinis by Moonlight composed by Ronnie Way and Bill Cunningham and performed by Ronnie Way. Editing by Tony Dean Smith. Production designed by Rick Whitfield. Victoria Soderholm is the set decorator, assisted by Andrew Ried. Title design by Krista Lomax. A Here! Films/Regent Entertainment presentation. Chad Allen retired from acting (and production) in 2015 to become a psychologist.  Third Man Out and the other Donald Strachey Mysteries made for television are a celebration of detective fiction.

(1) See the documentary Martinis & Murder: Inside the Donald Strachey Mysteries (2009).

https://bryandspellman.com/donald-strachey-mysteries
https://www.advocate.com/politics/commentary/2005/08/15/chads-case
https://mydevotionalthoughts.net/2019/11/interview-with-actor-nelson-wong-christmas-at-the-plaza.html

Thursday, 1 July 2021

INSPECTOR MONTALBANO/DETECTIVE MONTALBANO (IL COMMISSARIO MONTALBANO): IL METODO CATALANOTTI (RAI 1)

Il commissario Montalbano, the Italian detective drama launched in 1999 and starring Luca Zingaretti as the character created by author Andrea Camilleri, returned last march on RAI 1 with its 37th episode: Il metodo Catalanotti.

Written by Francesco Bruni, Andrea CamilleriSalvatore De Mola and Leonardo Marini with Valentina Alferj, Il metodo Catalanotti is based on the novel by Camilleri (first published in 2018) (1). After the interruption of his visit to a lady, Mimì Augello discovers the dead body of a man and asks for help from Salvo Montalbano. The commissario and his deputy try to find a solution when they are called for another body elsewhere. Except that this is the dead man of Augello. His name was Carmelo Catalanotti and he was an amateur theatre director with a very peculiar way to choose his actors.

Salvo meets Antonia Nicoletti, the new chief of forensics. Something begins and something ends but is it the 22-year old TV series? The successive deaths of three important figures of Il commissario Montalbano Andrea Camilleri, director Alberto Sironi and production designer Luciano Ricceri between 2019 and 2020 had an understandable impact on Luca Zingaretti's motivation to continue. That's why Il metodo Catanalotti was announced as a possible final episode. However, two novels have not been adapted for television: Il cuocco dell'Alcyon (2019) and Riccardino (the last one, published in 2020).

Fortunately, it seems that there will be two more episodes (2). Il commissario Montalbano should end on a high note and the bittersweet Il metodo Catalanotti is quite frustrating for a conclusion. Mimi's antics and the investigation in the amateur theatre community are the highlights of the episode. The romance is its weakest part and the treatment given to poor Livia Burlando, Salvo's long-suffering fiancee, is regrettable. The late Alberto Sironi is co-credited as the director of Il metodo Catalanotti with star and helmer Luca Zingaretti.

With Cesare Bocci (Mimì), Peppino Mazzotta (Giuseppe Fazio), Angelo Russo (Catarella), Antonia Truppo (Maria Del Castello), Carlo Cartier (Carmelo Catalanotti), Marina Rocco (Eleonora Ortolani), Monica Dugo (Anita Pastore), Aglaia Mora (Dr. Barresi), Maurizio Bologna (Antonio Scimè), Giampiero Ciccio (Rosario Lo Savio), Gaetano Aronica (Ernesto Lopez), Greta Scarano as Antonia and Sonia Bergamasco as Livia. Also with Aldo Messineo (Enzo), Raniela Ragonese (Enza), etc. Il commissario Montalbano is produced by Palomar and RAI Fiction.
 
Produced by Carlo Degli Esposti, founder and president of Palomar, Nora Barbieri and Nicola Serra with Max Gusberti. Marco Camilli is the producer for Palomar and Erica Pellegrini produces for RAI. Gianfranco Barbagallo exec produces. Chrystelle Robin is the production manager. Music composed and conducted by Franco Piersanti. Cinematography by Franco Lecca. Distributed by Rai Com. Il commissario Montalbano is aired in the UK by BBC Four as Inspector Montalbano and in France on France 3 as Commissaire Montalbano
 
In the United States, the series is available on MHz Choice under the title Detective Montalbano. The SVOD service will show this episode on July 6th as The Catalanotti Method.
 
(1) In English its title is The Sicilian Method.