Inspector Bellamy (2009)
I was never a champion of Chabrol, but I am amazed at what he left as his last film.
The film is superficially framed as a detective story but as it progresses it slowly turns inside out as it becomes a discovery about the nature of the detective. This is done so surreptitiously that you hardly notice until toward the end you will ask in amazement what just happened?
You will be disturbed because not much seems to change and the mystery seems solved early in the film. There are numerous situations where we expect emotional explosions from the detective but the film skitters out from under them.
Some of this is vague enough to be a dream and such has a very clear marker midway when our detective wakes from a dream and non-dream dialogue follows seamlessly.
The story we are supposed to think the main story involves the discovery of a burnt body. It is not who it seems to be. The killer who confesses to Bellamy early on is not who he seems to be.
A quirky, fun shopgirl plays an unexpected role that leaves our detective thinking at the end that he (and us) have been fooled. We will never know how that con worked.
The mirrored story involves the detective and his dark step-brother. The two are a stark contrast, and emotions are wound tight throughout. As we move through this with other magical tones that get added by his watching, it becomes less important whether the brother actually exists.
The brother dies at the end like the mystery man of the beginning. And there are other similarities. The whole thing flattens into his own complex set of brilliant strategies to hide and eventually kill half of himself.
This dynamic is played not between him and his mystery, nor him and his brother, but between him and his wife. He is now old and obese and prepared to focus all his amorous attentions on his patient wife. She guides his life in subtle ways, using this power. The effect within the film is that we enter expecting to have Bellamy’s eyes be ours and for those eyes to bring narrative coherence.
Instead, we end up knowing nothing. No mystery is solved, at least those we expect. Instead. We are moved off our path in a ways that we cannot quite see, but that creates incredible tension. It is as if Chabrol decide that on his way out, he would show that he is such a master of narrative suspense, that he could create it by removing narrative elements instead of adding them.
I am reminded of a game. The participant is to enter a room of known people and continuously direct the conversation without being detected and by saying the absolute minimum.
The script plays some games with names. It it the only misstep, being childishly obvious.
Posted in 2011
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.