Monday, 18 November 2013


The commissaire Swan Laurence receives a letter from the rich Émilie Longuet, owner of the Filatures Longuet, in which she writes that someone wants to murder her. Except she died three months ago from jaundice and the letter was posted two days before he received it.

Alice Avril is getting bored with her broken hearts' column for La Voix du Nord and learns that commissaire Laurence ordered the exhumation of Émilie Longuet. But there's more annoying for Laurence than the presence of Avril: his whimsical mother Alexina is a close friend of Geneviève Ranson, Émilie's sole heiress.

« Et dire qu'il faut que je vienne dans un cimetière pour te voir. La prochaine fois ce sera pour mon enterrement à moi.
- Oh tu ne crois tout de même pas que je serai là à ton enterrement. »

Commissaire Swan Laurence (Samuel Labarthe, of the Comédie-Française) and reporter Alice Avril (Blandine Bellavoir) return this friday on  France 2 for a brand new episode of Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie ("Agatha Christie's little murders"). This period crime comedy/drama 90-minute series, launched in 2009, is a French adaptation of Agatha Christie's stories with two local sleuths instead of  her detectives.

In March 2013, Laurence and Avril succeeded the beloved crime-solving duo Larosière and Lampion, played by Antoine Duléry and Marius Colucci, and Les petits meurtres switched eras from the 1930s to the 1950s. Adapted from Dumb Witness by scriptwriter Thierry Debroux and directed by Marc Angelo, Témoin muet is the third Laurence-Avril after the enjoyable but transitional Jeux de glaces and the more familiar (and excellent) Meurtre au champagne.

« Attendez, j'ai découvert un truc vachement intéressant!
- Écoutez Avril, il est vachement tard et j'ai vachement pas envie de passer la soirée avec vous. »

Cynical and misogynist Laurence (« Je parle au seul neurone qui a osé s'aventurer dans votre cerveau. ») is back with his elegant suits, his chic Facel-Vega Facellia sports car and his stereotypical scatterbrain blonde secretary Marlène (Élodie Frenck). Now viewers are getting to know his eccentric mother, Alexina Laurence. She pretends she can communicate with the dead, wants her son to marry, to give her grandchildren, and is a (very) close friend of a chief suspect.

« Vous étiez déjà une plaie, Avril. Mais si en plus vous commencez à ressembler à ma mère... »

Alexina is played with her usual absolute brilliance by the great Françoise Fabian alongside classy and tongue-in-cheek Samuel Labarthe, who delivers Laurence's one-liners with a visible delectation (« Bon, les harpies. Vous avez deux options: vous quittez cet appartement par la porte, ou par la fenètre. » ) Blandine Bellavoir, who found her feet with Meurtre au champagne as a more "lampionesque" Avril, is perfect. The guest cast is very good, particularly Isabelle De Hertogh as Bella and Vincent Schmitt as Georges.

Témoin muet matches the best episodes of the Larosière/Lampion era. Thierry Debroux's script contains everything the fans of France's answer to Midsomer Murders could wish and even a little more, while keeping the spirit of Agatha Christie's work. The sets look as lavish as ever (Laurence's appartment) and the locations are splendid (château de Steenbourg). Let's hope Alexina will become a regular or semi-regular character.

Les petits meurtres d'Agatha Christie is produced by Escazal Films with the support of Pictanovo, Conseil Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais and the participation of TV5 Monde and France Télévisions. Sophie Révil is the producer. The characters of Laurence and Avril were created by Sylvie Simon and Thierry Debroux. The music is by film and TV composer Stéphane Moucha (Das Leben der Anderen).

« Mais est-ce qu'il existe au moins quelqu'un que vous ne détestez pas?
- Jean-Sébastien Bach.»

In French:

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