Opening 9 Jul 2009
This is a small film by great men of French cinema: director Claude Chabrol and actor Gérard Depardieu. Detective Paul Bellamy (Depardieu) and his wife Francoise (Marie Bunel) vacation in her childhood home in Nîmes in the south of France. In spite of a population of more than 150,000, Nîmes comes across as a small village: everyone knows someone and Bellamy knows them all. Naturally curious as a detective, Bellamy first befriends Noël Gentil who is on the run from the police. They suspect him in the death of a tramp found near a cemetery in Gentil’s burned out car. Instead of turning him over to his colleagues, Bellamy listens to his story of innocence and visits the wife and the girlfriend. At the same time, Bellamy’s loser brother Jacques pops up to move into the spare bedroom. These main characters discuss life (“One must be poor to understand”), family relationships (“Family members should become homeless and then die”) and fate (“Some people have more luck”). There are juxtapositions for comparison. For example, Bellamy’s love for his wife vs. Gentil’s obsession with his cheating mistress, or the dead homeless man and Jacque who expects his brother to save him from a similar fate, or two suicides. Is the solution for one person also good for the next?
It was interesting to see how far Depardieu has come after 40 years and as many films. It might be unimportant, but he has developed a huge beer belly, which seems to be no hindrance to his career. The various supporting actors, until now unknown to me, were all excellent. It would be worth the experiment to shake up the parts and reassign the same actors to different roles to see what direction the film would then take. I liked the gay dentist best of all. He seemed to have the most sense. Also, what about the crazy young lawyer who sang his defending speech? Sometimes you have to be French to understand French films. Or to quote poet W.H. Auden, as the films does, “There is always more to a story than the eye sees.” Bellamy played out of competition at the 2009 Berlinale. (Becky Tan)