Georges Simenon’s lugubrious detective Maigret has appeared in umpteen screen adaptations and dozens of actors have played him. Now it’s Gérard Depardieu’s turn. Depardieu’s Maigret isn’t, in fact, quite how I imagined Maigret. He’s bulkier than the one in my head; moves more cumbersomely, like a sad circus bear. And I never saw him with that nose – but then who would? Yet he may be the best so far, despite the likes of Jean Gabin, Charles Laughton, Richard Harris and Michael Gambon having had a go.
This is adapted from Maigret and the Dead Girl (1954) and is directed by Patrice Leconte. It is minimal and melancholic, beset by the gloominess (I don’t think any lightbulb runs to more than five watts) that also has the great detective in its hold. Maigret looks exhausted and shifts himself awkwardly, like that sad old circus bear or Pavarotti in his later years. It’s as if the seediness of night-time Paris has seeped into his very bones, plus he is becoming short of breath and must give up his beloved pipe, his doctor tells him. Poor Maigret.
He has even lost his appetite so there are no lunch trips to the local bistro for soupe à l’oignon or blanquette de veau which is a pity, as the meals people eat in films are always fascinating to me, and when I read the books as a teenager the food had me spellbound. (What? No Findus crispy pancakes?) Maigret’s not a modern fictional detective, thankfully, so he does not have PTSD, flashbacks, or a wife who’s on his case for not getting home in time for dinner. Maigret does endlessly phone Mme Maigret (Anne Loiret) to say he won’t be home for dinner and she is always perfectly lovely about it.
A body drops at the outset, of course.