Movie legend Gerard Depardieu steps into the trench coat of Jules Maigret, the famous French literary detective who has been adapted many times across the world, most recently as a UK TV movie starring Rowan Atkinson.
This French language adaptation of the novel Maigret and The Dead Girl sees him on the trail of a woman mysteriously murdered after renting a dress for a big event. With little to go on, Maigret moves among the lost souls of Paris, and faces reflections of his own past. Director Patrice Leconte recreates 1950s Paris as a place full of regret, where police roll their eyes at another young person who came to the capital with big dreams, only to find ruin.
There’s a smoky romanticism to the world that’s evocative of classic detective movies, and while this doesn’t stray too wildly from the formula, there is a comfort in the nostalgia. The script does a wonderful job of slowly revealing why Maigret is so invested, even if the identity of the killer isn’t quite as protected.
Depardieu is a polarising figure in cinema. Best known to English speaking audiences from 90s hits Green Card and The Man With The Iron Mask, his iconic status in French cinema has been muddied by personal scandal and poor acting choices. Thankfully, this performance stands out from the crowd, lifting a standard detective story into something more personal.
His take on Maigret is quiet and thoughtful, the actor’s large frame contrasting with a modest performance. We see a detective who listens rather than shouts at his suspects, telling tales through small movements and delivering an emotional punch that isn’t always present in murder mysteries.
While Jade Labeste impresses as Maigret’s collaborator Betty, Depardieu is what makes Maigret a mystery worth following.