French master Claude Chabrol's final theatrical feature comes under the shadow of the "two Georges" to whom it is dedicated: acclaimed crime novelist Georges Simenon, a particular favourite of Mr. Chabrol's whose works he occasionally adapted, and singer/songwriter Georges Brassens, one of the masters of French post-war chanson. Bellamy borrows liberally tone and structure from Simenon and important plot points from a Brassens song, in an alternately poignantly tragic and wryly satirical tale of metaphorical doppelgängers set in the provincial France Mr. Chabrol was so fond of, its twisted and curved plot triggered when Parisian police detective Paul Bellamy (a wonderful Gérard Depardieu) comes to Nîmes for a family vacation.

     What follows is another one of the director's elegantly written poison-pen letters dissecting provincial bourgeoisie, with inspector Bellamy being sucked into a case of insurance fraud where nothing is what it seems as his shifty half-brother (Clovis Cornillac), with whom he has a turbulent relationship, arrives for a visit. But this one is given an added lease of life over the later Chabrol films by the perfect relationship between film, director and star: this was the sole collaboration between Messrs. Chabrol and Depardieu, and by the looks of it it was a match made in heaven, with the actor pulling off one of his finer performances in years (and, what's more, an entirely subdued one). Also, Mr. Depardieu and Marie Bunel as his wife navigate the director's twists and turns and rolling dialogue as they were born to it - something that not every Chabrol film in the last few years had.

     As always, plot is entirely secondary to the elaborate web of relationships the director effortlessly draws out from the darkest corners of the story, resulting in a film that seems to bring nothing new to the director's heritage on the surface but, with the hindsight of a second or third viewing, reveals unsuspected and inspired layers underneath its economy of means and structure and obfuscating mirror-image plot. Probably the best of the director's works since the masterful The Ceremony, and a more than worthy concluding chapter to a long, illustrious career.

Cast: Gérard Depardieu, Clovis Cornillac, Jacques Gamblin, Marie Bunel, Vahina Giocante

Director: Claude Chabrol
Screenplay: Odile Barski, Mr. Chabrol
Cinematography: Eduardo Serra (colour, processing by GTC)
Music: Mathieu Chabrol
Designer: Françoise Benoît-Fresco
Costumes: Mic Cheminal
Editor: Monique Fardoulis
Producer: Patrick Godeau  (Alicéleo, Alicéleo Cinéma, France 2 Cinéma, DD Productions)
France, 2008, 110 minutes

Screened: Berlin International Film Festival press screening, Cinemaxx 9 (Berlin), February 7th 2009; distributor advance press screening, Medeia Nimas (Lisbon), October 16th 2012


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