Saturday, January 8, 2011

Inspector Bellamy (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway 

The late Claude Chabrol, France's answer to The Master of Suspense, who  passed away last year, hauntingly thrills us with "Inspector Bellamy". This is his final film, a fitting Hitchcockian haiku: atmospheric, pensive and dry---a fitting clap to a great career.  
Gerard Depardieu stars in the title role as a soft sex-distracted police inspector on holiday, a caged stuffed animal. Locked in the grid of manicured lawns and crossword puzzles, Bellamy yearns for more. His wife (Marie Bunel) ceaselessly does household chores while mildly putting the brakes on Bellamy's bearish affections. A stalker awaits at the window in a grey silk suit with a grin, echoing images of Joseph Cotten in "Shadow of a Doubt" and Robert Walker in "Strangers on A Train". Who is this dapper cypher and what does he want?
The enigmatic man distracts Bellamy's mind. He calls him and agrees to meet. Dark doorways pursue Bellamy even in bright sunlight--a half open door is a metaphor for the aperture of Chabrol's camera---behind every frame is an adventure.
The Mystery Man, Noel Gentil (Jacques Gamblin) is mystified by hints of guilt: he tried to alter his appearance, do an insurance scam and fake his own death by kidnapping a homeless man  during a car crash. But since the homeless man wanted to die by his own hand, did he really kil him? 
Bellamy walks further and further into the resort town. With each open door and empty room, he is perplexed and addled by ambivalence and the push and pull of sex. He questions massage therapists of  M. Gentil who is often alone in his bunk and toys with the girlfriend of the deceased. We are never quite sure why Bellamy is so obsessed with the odd man. Perhaps Gentil is a figure of Zen criminology. Perhaps it is the thrill of the chase which releases him from the confines of his resort chalet its oppressive blinding greens. 
Whatever the case, Bellamy becomes increasingly flustered and insecure, his lumbering frame seeming to yearn for the suspense of Noir. If he is not fretting about the mystery, he is sexually magnetized and is frequently denied, either by a ringing phone or his wife. Bellamy is also besieged by his shifty brother (Clovis Cornillac) who is often drunk, caustic and hunched--a squinty wolf of a sibling burden. Not a moment of peace for Bellamy who sees Gentil and the homeless victim as an almost celebrity pair, who both liked the musician Georges Brassens and became locked in circumstance, but were free. The scorched wreck of the car with the headless skeleton inside, is for Bellamy, a memorial to the vague and unsolved crimes that became perfect in complexity. The image of the car is as much a nod to writer J.G. Ballard as it is to Dali or Hitchcock. 
As the last scenes unfold, we learn that Bellamy himself is guilty for the near death of his brother Jacques, who is blighted under a lifetime of derision. As his fatalist brother dies in a crash, Bellamy's life implodes upon him in a quantum collapse that might seem half Bunuel and half Buddha, but this echo of spirit makes the yin/yang of Chabrol complete.

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