This is my second experience with the character of MAIGRET – I recently had the good fortune of reviewing SET 7. Having enjoyed most of what I saw there, I was enthusiastic about getting into SET 8. Bruno Cremer is such a delight – he inhabits the role of the seasoned police commissioner who serves almost as a mentor to many younger inspectors with tremendous grace. While I’ll admit that I didn’t find all of these stories up to the high standards set by the previous collection, there are a few solid winners in here … and even the bad ones aren’t really all that bad.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come’, then read on …)
As the spoiler rules really don’t apply here (these were broadcast several years ago and have been available in previous releases from other outlets), I’ll mostly dispense with them in a brief summary for each telefilm, and I’ll provide a rating to indicate the quality. When appropriate, I’ll even through in a word or two about the program, though methinks if you’re already looking into this review then MAIGRET is right up your alley, as he was mine!
“To Any Lengths” (3 out of 5): As much as I wanted to enjoy this tale of an embittered accountant believing he uncovered the impending murder of a fortune teller, it all ends up being far too convoluted for the conventional murder mystery. Suffice it to say, there are several plots under way, and, somehow, all of these players end up with their activities overlapping one another. The location shooting was solid, but, in the end, methinks it wasn’t a good translation from the book upon which it was based.
“Maigret’s Failure” (4 out of 5): A former classmate of Maigret’s has grown up to be a very powerful man within the Parisian business community. When he finds himself in a bit of a pickle, he uses his influence to have Maigret “take care of a personal matter” for him, but, before all can be resolved, the magnate winds up dead. It turns out that the Commissioner wasn’t the only one being bullied into one man’s business affairs.
“Maigret’s Boyhood Friend” (4 out of 5): Another man from Maigret’s youth asks the Commissioner to investigate when his love is found dead in her apartment. As it turns out, the man was there, hiding in her closet, but he was too frightened to come out until it was too late. Before the case is closed, Maigret will learn that their relationship was something more than a bit twisted out of the ordinary but it certainly wasn’t love. Another terrific use of some interior and exterior location shooting brings this slow potboiler to life.
“Maigret Has Scruples” (5 out of 5): After receiving an award for service, Maigret is cornered by a local toy merchant, Xavier Marton, with a surprising claim: his wife, Gisele, is trying to kill him. That evening, Gisele calls on the Inspector at his hotel, explaining that her poor husband is slowly becoming mentally unglued. Finding himself at odds with the local constable, Maigret continues to probe into the affairs of the merchant and his wife, eventually uncovering a home filled with deceptions. Arguably, the conclusion is a bit predictable, but the performances of all involved here give this story its surprising life.
“Little Pigs Without A Tail” (5 out of 5): An art heist goes awry, leaving one man seriously injured, but only Maigret – who finds himself conducting an investigation while aiding a police superintendent in another town – is willing to ignore the status quo to get to the bottom of a case that involves a missing person, the trafficking in stolen goods, and a crooked boxing circuit. This one will keep audiences guessing while having the inspector match wits with the young and disrespectful Germaine Blanc (a lovely Vahina Giocante).
“Maigret and the Tramp” (4 out of 5): A homeless tramp who lived under a bridge is rescued from the Seine River by the captain of a barge and his mate. When Maigret learns that the man was no ordinary drifter, he’s pulled into two family mysteries that connect in surprising ways. Excellent shooting locations – including the inspector taking a ride on a barge – and a terrific, unexpected sense of mirth make this definitely one to watch in this set. Cremer is in top form despite coming to terms with the reality that not every culprit gets caught.
This is a wonderful set showcasing a terrific program with accomplished performances, excellent period detail, and some pretty fantastic location shooting in and around France. I’m aware that there are other ‘interpretations’ of Maigret out there, but, for my tastes, I can’t imagine anyone in the role other than Bruno Cremer; the man appears to effortlessly inhabit the role of a finely tuned mind always focused on getting the job done right. Bravo!
MAIGRET – SET 8 is produced by Antenne-2, Ceska Televise, Dune, EC Télévision, France 2 (FR), and a host of other participants (you can check out a complete list over at IMDB.com). DVD distribution (stateside) for this release is being handled through MHz Networks. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a French spoken language production with English subtitles (no English dubbing available). As for the technical specifications, these productions look and sound terrific. As is often the case when these foreign programs find release on American shores, there are no special features to speak of.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I can’t be any clearer in saying that MAIGRET is a program worth discovering. Whether this is your first time with the detective – or if you’re interested in re-acquainting yourself with his investigative endeavors – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the quality of storytelling at work here. Granted, the source materials – the novels by Georges Simenon – are quite possibly even better (I’m figuring on bitter up a few when I can), but I can’t imagine any face other than Cremer’s filling out the role.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MHz Networks provided me with a DVD copy of MAIGRET – SET 8 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.