Arts + Culture
Share
Print article

Comment

Maigret: The French Batman

A world-weary detective whose only superpower is hard work and perseverance, and who solves murders the old-fashioned way? Yes, the description fits Batman, but also humble French Police Commissioner Jules Maigret, who might be considered the French Batman, minus the cool car.

Who is Maigret?

Or maybe he’s the French Columbo because, along with the trench-coated crusader’s tenacity, Maigret possesses a certain humble charm, bumbling grace, and ever-present wife.

Regardless of how you frame him, Commissioner Maigret is the subject of Maigret, a new film by Patrice Leconte with Gérard Depardieu stepping into the famous investigator’s shoes.

So, who is Maigret?

  • Jules Maigret (almost exclusively referred to by his last name) is a French police commissioner created by author Georges Simenon (1903-1989).
  • In his illustrious career, Maigret has served as inspiration for nearly as many films as Batman (12 for the French commissaire and around 14 for Gotham’s finest), based on the 75 novels and 28 short stories in which he features.
  • And that’s where the problems start.

You’d think that with such a rich oeuvre from which to cherry-pick, the story chosen for adaptation would be one of the highlights of the film, but no. The mystery (a poor woman found on the streets of Paris wearing expensive clothes she apparently would be caught dead in) is rather straightforward, as is its resolution.

Watch Official Maigret trailer https://imdb.to/3611bLs

Maigret: a mystery, or?

Maigret lacks intensity.

It has no sense of urgency, indeed, there’s no real conflict at all.

It’s just the modest Commissioner, plodding along like a pack mule carrying his burden of proof.

That the filmmakers decided to adapt a mystery more banal than anything found on streaming services poses the question of whether they did well to select Maigret as the subject at all.

Surprisingly, director Patrice Leconte – better known for his 1970s farces (Les Bronzés, Les Bronzés font du ski, Ma femme s’appelle reviens, Viens chez moi, j’habite chez une copine…) – doesn’t try to inject any of his trademark energy into this production but seems content to deliver a staid product that holds as much interest as Batman holds Father’s Day brunches.

Sadly, this lackluster feel carries over into the technical aspect of the movie. Whereas Batman uses shadow as a weapon and darkness as an aesthetic, Maigret flounders beneath a dingy filter that turns what was meant to be a film noir into a film dishwater gray.

Gérard Depardieu steps into Maigret’s shoes

Fortunately, all is not lost, because French cinema monument/monster Gérard Depardieu fills Maigret’s worn and rumpled suit.

Love him or loathe him, Depardieu is consistently good in almost everything he does, and here he tackles Maigret with the same energy he has other high profile characters such as Auguste Rodin, Christopher Columbus, Honoré de Balzac, Joseph Stalin, Alexandre Dumas, and his creation Edmond Dantes (the Count of Monte Cristo), not to mention other fictitious personnages like Cyrano, Obélix, and two of the four Musketeers.

Mon Depardieu does a fantastic job incarnating Maigret, but even the force of his portrayal isn’t strong enough to elevate the film higher than a made-for-TV movie with delusions of grandeur. When all is said and done, Maigret the character is more interesting than Maigret the film, which resembles the suit the character wears throughout the movie: faded, worn, and passé. Maybe you should watch The Batman instead (or at least a couple of Columbo reruns)?


Have you seen Maigret? What are your thoughts? Do you agree with Paul? Share your views with us in the comments below.


Image credits:
1. Maigret poster via IMDB
2. Official Maigret trailer here
3. Gérard Depardieu and Jade Labeste in Maigret (2022)

This film was screened at MK2 Quai de Loire, 75019 Paris



Join the conversation

2 Comments




  1. Lina Davis
    4 months ago

    Excellent review, unfortunately I feel as if I do not need to see the film after your inciteful critique. So unfortunate that even Depardieu was not enough to elevate this basic storyline to something of interest.


  2. Linda Price
    4 months ago

    Thanks Paul for an excellent and insightful review.
    Hope this film comes to SATx, I live Depardieu.