He was a leading director of the French New Wave, but that doesn’t tell you much about the hugely prolific Claude Chabrol. He was frequently compared to Alfred Hitchcock but that tells you even less. I’m not even close to an expert on his work, but I can safely describe Chabrol as a crafty writer-director who specialized in films that shared plot elements with the mystery and suspense genres while deliberately not partaking of their usual pleasures. It’s fitting, therefore, that the late director’s final film has a murder mystery plot and pays tribute to Georges Simenon’s beloved Inspector Maigret but never feels like a murder mystery, which is both the best and worst thing about it.
In his first ever film with Chabrol, the omnipresent, 60-something Gerard Depardieu stars as Bellamy, a famed detective who attempts some time off only to be accosted by an intrusive stranger (Jacques Gamblin). The man asks for his help exonerating him from the killing of a homeless person. The problem: he admits that he really did intend to murder the vagrant as part of an insurance scam. Bellamy welcomes the distraction. He is much less sanguine about another interloper, his obnoxious and troubled younger half-brother (Clovis Cornillac) who intrudes upon his quality time with his beloved and sexy wife (Marie Bunel). Like I said earlier, don’t come to a Chabrol film expecting a conventional thriller. If a wry but serious look at life and death is up your alley, however, “Inspector Bellamy” is worth investigating.