Patrice Leconte’s Maigret was adapted from Georges Simenon’s Maigret & The Dead Girl / Maigret et la jeune morte (1954), one of the dozens of novels (and short stories) Simenon wrote between 1931 and 1972 about his premiere detective, Jules Maigret, Commissionaire of Paris’ Brigade Criminelle. It’s had to imagine a more perfect actor than Depardieu for the role in Leconte’s adaptation. This pairing of actor and director is something of an art house dream. Leconte directed Ridicule (1996), The Girl on the Bridge (1999), and The Man on the Train (2002) among others–all art house favorites. And Depardieu is, well, Depardieu. Maigret is something that both art house and genre fans can enjoy.
Maigret is exquisitely crafted. The film is set in the late 1950s and there is an incredible attention to detail from the clothing and cars to the emergence of more contemporary forensic science in the 1950s. As the film opens, Maigret is worn out and possibly burned out. He has no appetite. He sleeps poorly. He tires easily. His doctor tells Maigret to quite smoking his iconic pipe and to consider a long vacation or even early retirement. At the same time, a young woman (Clara Antoons) is being fitted with a ball gown. That night, she is found dead in the street, her elegant gown stained with her blood. Maigret is called in to investigate. The solution to the mystery of her death follows narratively from all that is shown. However, the central mystery in Maigret is how to continue on after a nearly all-consuming loss. Maigret is detached, drifting and lost. Maigret is haunted and it shows on his face as he lumbers through Paris streets and cafes, boarding houses and fine apartments. The murdered woman and Betty (Jade Labeste), another young woman who has come to Paris to escape country life, invoke this spirit of loss within Maigret and help him lay it to rest, at least for now.
(Maigret also makes a Magritte joke, which I enjoyed).
Read more of Carol’s thoughts about Maigret here.