How do you face the loss of a loved one bent on self-destruction? That's the real theme of this movie, mistakenly packaged as a crime thriller.
In the midst of his idyllic summer vacation, Inspector Bellamy and his adoring wife are joined by his dissipated, no-good, yet charismatic brother (a haunting performance from my favorite French actor, Clovis Cornillac). Meanwhile, the inspector is drawn into a case that ultimately holds up a mirror to his own dilemma: how do you deal with the self-destruction of someone you love?
If you've ever faced this in your own life--the descent of a relative or lover drawn into drugs, crime, or madness--you know the feelings of helplessness, guilt and grief that can linger for a lifetime. In the midst and aftermath of the crisis, how do you cope? Do you fall into the fallacy of imagining that you change another human being? Do you turn your back on them? Or...do you construct a comforting fantasy that will give you peace of mind?
The latter is the choice of just about everyone in the "murder mystery" part of this movie. Never mind the wanted man put on trial; the story is really about the homeless vagabond who died in his place, and the woman who loved him, the clerk named Claire Bonheur who works at the home improvement store. She and the homeless man were lovers for five years. Bonheur is still so torn up about his descent that she can't even bear to let Bellamy look at her photo album. Now the man is dead, perhaps murdered by a con man who took advantage of him. But when Bellamy (conned by the con) puts the idea in her head that her homeless ex-lover may have died by choice, Bonheur seizes on it, and even finds a lawyer to put forth the argument. This is her way of bearing the unbearable: she chooses to believe that her ex-lover died because he wanted to. It's a fantasy; he was murdered. But this is how she copes. (Bonheur = happiness, and she will believe whatever is necessary to escape her sadness.) Only when the trial is over, and Bellamy sees all the parties on TV--the smiling Bonheur and the ambitious young lawyer, the con and his accomplice who've gotten away with murder--does Bellamy realize the awful, awful truth.
All this is only a mirror held up to Bellamy's own personal dilemma, the situation with his wastrel brother. Bellamy loves him, but cannot abide his self-destructive behavior. This has been going on a long time; we learn that Bellamy tried to throttle his brother when they were children, and for that act he has ever after felt guilty. He wants to save his brother; as Bellamy says of himself, "a good cop is a good Samaritan." (Good Samaritan = good friend = bel ami = Bellamy.) But ultimately, you cannot save those bent on destroying themselves, no matter how much you love them. How to bear this painful truth? At the end of the movie, Bellamy's dilemma is just beginning.
Another work that deals with this theme (going along with a con because believing a lie is more bearable than the truth) is a great story by Ruth Rendell, "The Strawberry Tree," which was also filmed for TV as part of the series "Ruth Rendell Mysteries." Chabrol adapted at least one Rendell novel, and I wonder if he was not influenced by her in this movie.
This is a very subtle film that wormed its way into my dreams. Farewell, Chabrol!
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Crime / Drama / Thriller
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As every year, chief inspector Paul Bellamy spends a few days with his wife Françoise in the family house in Nîmes. Jacques, Paul's stepbrother, turns up unawares, which is bad news since the fellow is an alcoholic good for nothing. Also annoying is this stranger at bay who asks Bellamy for protection. Farewell peaceful holiday!
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
May 06, 2022 at 04:23 PM