Thursday, 20 January 2022

MURDER IN ANGOULÊME (LE PRIX DE LA TRAHISON, FRANCE 3)

Comedian and actress Mimie Mathy, the star of TF1's long running hit Joséphine, ange gardien, is back on France 3 to play Police captain Marie Jourdan for the third time in Murder in Angoulême (Le prix de la trahison). Mathieu Delarive returns too as Gendarmerie commander Paul Danceny.

Like Le prix de la vérité (2017) and Le prix de la loyauté (2019) (1), Le prix de la trahison was penned by Laurent Mondy (Commissaire Magellan, Les Cordier, juge et flic). Marie Jourdan and her husband Pierre, restaurateur in Angoulême, celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. Marie has invited her friend Paul Danceny, who arrives from Aix-en-Provence. The party is interrupted when the police arrests Marie and Pierre's son Alex for the murder of Juliette Ravenne, a local journalist with whom he had an affair.

Danceny offers Marie Jourdan his assistance and Marie's boss Commissaire Florence Martens gives them two days to prove Alex's innocence. Captain Jourdan's adopted daughter Louise, who's a lawyer, helps them. Le prix de la trahison is better than Le prix de la loyauté but definitely not as good as Le prix de la vérité. It's a standard France 3 crime/mystery TV movie —  including the inevitable and annoying drone shots — enhanced by the talented Mimie Mathy (2). Patrick Raynal, a familiar face of the channel, plays Pierre Jourdan. 
 
Fabrice Deville (Un si grand soleil) looks like he enjoyed playing shady businessman Josselin Delmont, a character which reminds the one played by Philippe Caroit in Le prix de la vérité. Also with Juliette Chêne (Louise Jourdan), Cécilia Cara (Sandra Jourdan), Rémi Bichet (3) (Franck Neuville), Mathieu Coniglio (Alex Jourdan), Clara Quilichini (Victoria Delmont), Jean-Luc Joseph (Lieutenant Diawara), Laurence Bréheret (Commissaire Martens), etc. Produced by Episode Productions (JLA Groupe) and France Télévisions with Be-Films and RTBF (Télévision belge). With the participation of RTS Télévision Suisse and TV5Monde.

Exec produced by Olivier Guedj. Produced by Richard Berkowitz. Emmanuel Liebermann is the production manager. Music composed by Fabien Nataf. Cinematography by Christophe Soffietti. Editing by Nicolas Reydon. Filmed with the support of Département de la Charente. Directed by François Guérin, Le prix de la trahison will be aired on France 3 this saturday.
 
(1) Respectively titled in English Murder in Saint-Paul de Vence and Murder in Provence.
(2) There's a nice nod to the fact that Mimie Mathy was a member of French singer's Michel Fugain's Big Bazar during the 1970s.
(3) Rémi Bichet also played in Mauvais rôle, an episode of Crime is her game (Le crime lui va si bien) not yet shown by France 2 and also filmed in Angoulême.
 

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

CRIME IS HER GAME (LE CRIME LUI VA SI BIEN): MAUVAIS RÔLE (FRANCE 2)

[Favourite of the Month] Le crime lui va si bien, France 2's mystery/comedy series, returns with two new feature-length episodes: Mauvais rôle and Deux pour le prix d'un.

Based on an idea by producer/writer Jean-Pierre Alessandri, Le crime lui va si bien was created by Olga Vincent (Envers et contre tous, Disparus) and Stéphane Kaminka (Au-delà des apparences, Malaterra). It stars Claudia Tagbo as Gaby Molina, an intuitive and tenacious police captain who does odd jobs and rents guest rooms to keep the farm inherited from her grandparents. Though Claudia Tagbo is best known for stand-up comedy and her participation to TF1's entertainment programme Vendredi tout est permis, this versatile Franco-Ivorian actress and humorist played Lieutenant Martine Forest in RIS police scientifique (2006-2014) (1). The excellent Hélène Seuzaret (Le pont des oubliés, Das Boot) co-stars as Lieutenant Céline Richer, the by-the-book partner and tenant of Captain Molina.  
 
The great Bruno Lochet plays Gaby's informer Anton Vargas. Laurent Manzoni is very good as Commissaire Félix Fontan, the duo's boss. Julien Ratel is amazing as Darget, the lunar police officer. The TV film which gave birth to the series won the Grand Prix of the French-speaking TV movie 2019 at the Cognac Polar Festival Directed by Stéphane Kappes (La stagiaire, Tropiques criminels), the brilliant Mauvais rôle was penned by Olga Vincent with novelist and scriptwriter Mikaël Ollivier (Three Blind Mice) (2). Captain Gaby Molina moonlights as a consultant for a crime drama filmed in Vargas' car junkyard and starring his ex-husband, actor Antoine Lartigaud. Soon Gaby must go back to regular police work: she investigates with Céline on the murder of a young woman whose left thumb was cut. They interrogate the victim's sister and her brother-in-law who tell them she had gambling debts.
 
Things get complicated when Antoine appears to be the main suspect. Céline speaks German better than Fontan. Darget wears sunglasses and shows some surprising fields of expertise. Vargas thinks he's an actor. Mauvais rôle is fun, well-plotted (with a twist) and we learn more about Molina and Richer. There are chinchillas (seriously) and Claudia Tagbo reminds us that she was Oda Mae Brown in the musical adaptation of the movie Ghost on stage. Stéphane Debac (Crimes parfaits, Les Bracelets rouges) plays Antoine Lartigaud. Also with  Nathanaël Maïni (3) as Cédric, Rémi Bichet (Marc Vallard), Anne Suarez (Caïn) as Charlotte Vallard, Isaac Domingos (Matéo), etc. Produced by  Ramona Productions, Kam&Ka and France Télévisions. Co-produced by Be-Films and RTBF (Télévision belge) with the participation of RTS Radio Télévision suisse and TV5 Monde.
 
Produced by Olga Vincent & Jean-Pierre Alessandri, Samuel Kaminka & Stéphane Kaminka. Music by Xavier Berthelot (Joséphine, ange gardien). Cinematography by Sergio Dell'Amico. Editing by Bénédicte Gellé. Olivier Perrault is the director of the fabulous title sequence. Filmed with the support of Département de la Charente and Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine
 
Not yet shown by France 2.
 
(1) The French adaptation of RIS: Delitti imperfetti (2005-2009).
(2) With the contribution of Nathan Bauer
(3) An interesting actor: https://www.francaisaucambodge.org/post/le-portrait-du-mois-decembre-2021-nathanael-maini (In French).  
 
 
See also:
 

Monday, 10 January 2022

SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: A DONALD STRACHEY MYSTERY (2006, HERE TV)

Donald Strachey is the quintessential private eye, a worthy heir to Philip Marlowe, but with a difference... He's gay. Shock to The System (2006) is the second of four excellent made-for-TV movies based on a literary series.

« You're like the first gay detective I've ever heard of. I mean, I know a couple of gay firemen but a gay detective... yeah, that's something. »

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

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). Shock to The System is based on the fifth book (published in 1995) and was written by Ron McGee.

Donald Strachey investigates the suspicious death of a young man named Paul Hale, who just hired him. Hale was the spokesman of the Phoenix Foundation for a Better Life, run by Dr. Trevor Cornell and his wife Lynne. The psychiatrist is behind a controversial "conversion therapy" programme which pretends to turn gay people straight. Phyllis Hale — Paul's homophobic mother — blames Larry Phelps, a gay college friend of his son, for his death. Donald uses his own military past to infiltrate the foundation as "Kyle Griffin", an ex-soldier discharged for being gay, and joins a group session led by Dr. Cornell.

« He asked me if he could trust me and I told him he could. If somebody murdered him, I don't really don't give a damn who they sleep with. »

While the detective seeks answers amongst the group members, his undercover work starts to cost him emotionally. Chad Allen found his marks as Donald Strachey and he's very impressive in Shock to the System. The chemistry between the gay actor (outed by a tabloid in 1996) and Sebastian Spence, who's straight and plays his role with ease, is essential to these adaptations where mystery and a film noir atmosphere are combined with romance. This romantic aspect is influenced by the Thin Man movies (1934-1947) and their husband/wife sleuth duo Nick and Nora Charles (1).

Another enjoyable element of the Donald Strachey Mysteries is the presence of the irresistible Nelson Wong as Kenny Kwon. The role was originally a bit part in Third Man Out but Kenny returns in Shock to the System, this time to be Donald's secretary ("office manager"). Since Ice Blues, the last Donald Strachey, Nelson Wong played characters named "Kenny Kwon" in a long list of Hallmark TV movies directed by Ron Oliver. Fans of both Hallmark Channel and Wong call these participations "the Kennyverse". Daryl Shuttleworth plays Albany Police Detective Bub Bailey.

Shock to the System is pure P.I. material with some humour (even self-derision) and the mandatory Martinis in the end. The film chooses to deal with the subject of conversion therapies through the psychology and the attitude of the protagonists rather than frontally. In this respect, the performances of Michael Woods as Trevor Cornell and U.S. television legend Morgan Fairchild as Phyllis are perfect. Also starring Anne-Marie DeLuise (Lynne Cornell), Nikki Gagné (Katey Simmons), Stephen Huszar (Grey), Ryan Kennedy (Walter), Jeffery Bowyer-Chapman (Levon), Shawn Roberts (Larry), etc.

Produced by Shavick Entertainment and Insight Film Studios with Here! Films. Exec produced by Barry KrostJames Shavick and Paul Colichman. Produced by Kirk Shaw. Lindsay Macadam, Randy Zalken and Stacy Belecos Shaw are the associate producers. Music by Peter Allen I'm Over You composed by Peter Allen (lyrics by Dave Hudgins and Peter Allen) and performed by Sibel Thrasher. Cinematography by C. Kim Miles, CSC. Editing by Steve Schmidt. Production designed by Rick Whitfield.

Jeffrey Schenck is the creative consultant. Costumes designed by Sylvie Gendron. Title designed by Krista Lomax. Filmed with the participation of The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit and the  Province of British Columbia Film Incentive BC. Chad Allen retired from acting (and production) in 2015 to become a psychologist. Though Ron Oliver helmed a genuine celebration of detective fiction when he did the Donald Strachey films, the director is celebrated today as the king of Christmas movies.

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