Monday, 11 February 2019


France 3's police station welcomes a new sleuth and it's Stéphane Bern.

The crime dramas of France 3 are a fully-fledged genre, recognizable from the regional locations, postcard drone shots and even actors jumping from one to another. The pubcaster's long string of hits includes series like the ratings juggernaut Capitaine Marleau, Mongeville, Commissaire Magellan or Cassandre. But also collections like Crimes parfaitsCrime à and Meurtres à.... Launched in 2013 and set in a different town/region each time, Meurtres à... is the gaullic answer to Germany's Tatort.

One of its distinctive features is the occasional casting of a "non-actor" personality from the France Télévisions group in one of the main roles. After Michel Cymes and Claire Chazal, it's the turn of Stéphane Bern. Television presenter, radio host and journalist, Bern is famous in France for his encyclopedic knowledge of nobility and royal families, his passion for History and his involvement in heritage preservation. His programme Secrets d'Histoire is a favourite of France 2's viewers. He appeared in a handful of films and a few TV series or movies, mostly as himself. Except that the bar is higher this time: in Meurtres en Lorraine, Stéphane Bern stars as Lieutenant Nicolas Muller of the Gendarmerie.

A corpse wrapped in paragliding cloth is discovered inside the Citadel of Bitche, in the north-east of France. Lieutenant Muller investigates with his deputy, Adjudant Patrick Joly, and a newly arrived trainee, Gendarme stagiaire Lola Paoli. Muller is intrigued by a crystal chess piece found near the body. He goes with Lola, who happens to be the daughter of pathologist Patricia Paoli, to the Cristallerie Muller in order to get information. This crystal factory belongs to his father Hervé, whom he's not in good terms, and is managed by his younger sister Florence. The latest case of Nicolas quickly becomes very personal.

The announcement that Stéphane Bern would play the lead role in a Meurtres à... raised astonishment if not perplexity, given a public image often confused with his puppet in Les Guignols de l'info (the  now defunct French equivalent of Spitting Image). Though some scenes are a tad ambitious for someone who's not an actor, the performance of Bern is rather honourable. His presence is obliously the focus of the attention of both viewers and critics in an otherwise generic drama from France 3 with all the required clichés. At least Stéphane Bern, the legendary Féodor Atkine as Hervé Muller and a decent cast make it more watchable than the irritating Alexandra Ehle (on the same channel).

Also starring Lilly Fleur-Pointeaux (Lola), Joffrey Platel (Patrick Joly), Catherine Demaiffe (Florence Muller), Francis Renaud (Jean-Paul Dubois), Marie Matheron (Patricia Paoli), Céline Jorrion (Camille Dubois), Hervé Sogne (Pascal Dubois), Yannig Samot (Marc Saint-Léger), Rafaël Rajabian (Jérémy), Manuel Gélin, etc. Written by Killian Denis and Nicolas Jones-Gorlin. Directed by René Manzor (Highlander: The Series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles). Produced by Morgane Production. Co-produced by AT-production with R.T.B.F. (Télévision belge). With the participation of France Télévisions, TV5 Monde, RTS Radio Télévision Suisse and 13ème Rue.

Exec produced by Gilles Daniel. Produced by Gérard Pont, Gérard Lacroix and Sylvain Plantard. Arnauld de Battice and Caroline de Borchgrave are the associate producers. Filmed with the support of Région Grand-Est, la Ville de Nancy and Métropole du Grand Nancy. Music by Christophe La Pinta. Editing by Renaud Ziegler. Cinematography by Manuel Teran. Distributed by Film & Picture TV distribution. Belgian channel La Une aired Meurtres en Lorraine last month. (In English)

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