Maigret tend un piège (1958)

24 06 2010

A really solid, tightly constructed genre film that’s elevated to some level of importance by the presence of Jean Gabin. He carries a lot of the weight here. Filmmaker Jean Delannoy doesn’t really do anything out-there, but I still don’t think he deserved the bashing he would get from Truffaut. Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Melville’s seminal Bob le flambeur but I don’t see an enormous difference between that film and this one. Sure, the former has some more “introspective” elements or whatever (not really) but there’s nothing too different from what Delannoy does to what Hawks did. Sure, there’s no trademark “Delannoy touch” (at least I have yet to see one – still haven’t seen much of his stuff) but for my money, I’ll take any thriller with Jean Gabin over Melville’s apparently more “arty” thrillers.

That said, I guess I can see how this is a bit more straightforward in the sense that it is strictly a plot-driven movie. Jean Gabin is the titular detective and he’s trying to find the man behind a series of murders that have taken place in Paris. It seems a little odd for me to even give a film with something so formulaic and bland a chance, but the strength of the film doesn’t rely on the novelty (if there is any) of the story, rather it’s the greatness of the performances.

Jean Gabin is absolutely amazing, which isn’t much of a surprise. I could write an entire book on why he’s such a great actor (the best?) but it would probably unreadable. He just is Maigret here, and I feel confident saying that as someone who has not even touched any of Georges Simenon’s novels. Annie Girardot is really good too, and was a nice surprise. She always seems to sneak into movies, go unnoticed, but she’s never missed a note in my experience. There’s really not a sour spot in any of the performances, even the the peripheral characters are great – and they add to the “liveliness” of the town. Combine that with some textbook noir elements, and you’ve got a location that is as fleshed out as any I’ve seen in a “genre” film.



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