DVD Review: Maigret – Season 1

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For French viewers, Bruno Cremer’s performance of Paris-based detective Maigret is the interpretation against which all others are judged. Owning the role in the way that Jeremy Brett and Joan Hickson did respectively with Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple, Cremer’s realisation of the pipe-smoking detective is the most authentic screen embodiment of Simenon’s fictitious sleuth.

Premiering a year before ITV’s Michael Gambon starring adaptation, the Cremer series remains a regular fixture on French TV thanks to constant repeats. Running for fourteen years, the producers originally intended to adapt the entirety of the Maigret canon (75 Maigret novels and 29 short stories). 54 feature-length episodes were filmed before plans were abandoned due to Cremer’s ill health.

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Best known to English-speaking audiences for his appearance in William Friedkin’s 1977 remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, Cremer appeared in more than fifty films. He worked with many of Europe’s most prominent directors, including Costa Gavras and Luchiano Visconti.

Already in his early 60s at the time of casting, Cremer had the unenviable task of following Jean Richard who had played the role on French television since 1965 and for an entire nation was Maigret despite being publicly derided by Georges Simenon.
Cremer’s core appeal was that he perfectly conveyed Maigret’s world-weariness, compassion, and humour.

Restoring credibility to a character that over the course of numerous adaptations been reduced to a hat wearing sleuth, Cremer’s fondness for the novels and determination to be true to the source material resulted in the most complex portrayal to date.

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Comprising the first six feature films, this DVD boxset is more faithful to Simenon’s material than ITV’s recent Rowan Atkinson starring version. Despite its age, the series remains a satisfyingly atmospheric recreation of Simenon’s world thankfully devoid of the ersatz Frenchness which has plagued other adaptations.

If you’ve discovered Maigret via Penguin’s issuing of newly translated editions this should be your next DVD boxset purchase.

Maigret – Season 1 is available to order from Amazon.

DVD Review – The Bureau – Complete Season Two

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Addictive spy thriller should be your next binge-watch.

The Bureau‘s first season offered a realistic portrayal of modern day espionage far removed from the stylised version offered up by the James Bond films. Ten thrilling episodes kept viewers on the edge of their seats as French intelligence officer Malotru (Mathieu Kassovitz) tore up the rule book and endangered France’s national security. In the closing moments of the series newly promoted to deputy director of the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE) he agreed to become a double-agent for the CIA.

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More intense than the first season, The Bureau‘s return is wider in scope. At its heart, the series is a powerful study of treachery, torment, and the shifting tectonic plates of geopolitics. Already in production when the Charlie Hebdo attacks occurred, showrunner Éric Rochant’s screenplays address concerns about the rise of homegrown extremism and the state’s ineffectiveness in combating Isis and Al-Qaeda.

Contrasting the spectacle of fieldwork in Damascus, Istanbul, and Tehran with a complex web of paranoia in the DGSE’s headquarters, it’s an unremittingly intense drama. Immersive and utterly convincing, The Bureau occasionally plays like an anti-Homeland. Perhaps the closest television will ever get to presenting a glimpse into the fight against terror without artifice or flag waving.

The Bureau – Complete Season Two is available to order from Amazon

The Bureau – Complete Season One

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Tinker Tailor Gallic Spy: Masterly stylish slow burning espionage series is a gripping drama.

As the spy who came in from warmer climes, French intelligence operative Malotru is recalled to Paris after spending six years in Damascus. Leaving behind a life recruiting new agents in the field he struggles to cope with the prospect of a desk-bound job at the Directorate General of External Security (DGSE).

Mathieu Kassovitz (Malotru)

A world away from Ian Fleming’s view of spycraft, at times The Bureau plays out like an anti-Bond. Cynical, complex, and realistic, the series channels John Le Carre’s pessimistic view of the intelligence community. Expertly sketched atmosphere pours through every frame in this portrait of tradecraft and it’s consequences.

Based on accounts by former agents, The Bureau also draws from contemporary geopolitical events. Though France’s operations in Syria serves as the story’s backdrop, the narrative’s main focus is an agent’s behaviour threatening to bring down the entire department and put France’s security at risk.

Film actor Mathieu Kassovitz plays Malotru, an operative suffering from an acute case of Post-Mission Syndrome. After a six-year absence from his homeland, he is reunited with a daughter who barely remembers him and knows nothing about his work.  During his time in Damascus he fell in love and is now forced to relinquish all ties with his undercover identity. Convinced he is one step ahead of his enemies and allies, Malotru breaches security protocol and reaches out to his former girlfriend unaware that she is already in Paris on the false pretence of attending a UNESCO sponsored course.

Mathieu Kassovitz (Malotru)

In a world of secrets and lies knowing when to ditch a false identity will save countless lives. Nadia (Zineb Triki) only knows Malotru’s undercover alias. She believes he is a teacher taking a sabbatical to write a novel. His superiors are unaware that he has reactivated “Paul Lefebvre” and begun living a double life. As their relationship blossoms the lovers will be forced to choose sides in a war against terror.

Less stylised than Homeland and more authentic than Spooks, The Bureau has a strong claim to being the most realistic depiction of twenty-first-century espionage on TV. Series creator Eric Rochant’s 1994 thriller The Patriots is used as a training film by the French intelligence community which led to the showrunner and his team being given special permission to visit the DGSC and speak with former agents.

Expertly building tension throughout the season, it’s a perfectly paced excursion into a world of subterfuge and betrayal. Distinctively directed, this understated show is filled with enough edge of the seat moments to make you devour it in a single sitting. Undeniably the best French show to reach these shores since Spiral‘s first season, The Bureau is an exceptional series.

The Bureau is available to order from Amazon.

DVD Review: Braquo – The Complete Season Four

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Eddy Caplan confronts the Turkish Mafia in an explosive final season.

The hardest-hitting series on French TV. Compared to The Wire, The Shield, and Breaking Bad, it was created by former police officer turned screenwriter Olivier Marchal. Hyper violent, filled with Michael Mann-style shootings, torture, and murder, the series gripped France and has become a cult smash in the UK and USA.

braquo-s4_4Fans had been led to believe that the third season was to be the final outing for Eddy Caplin and his crew but with too many plot lines left dangling it was inevitable that one further batch of episodes would bring a definitive end to the story of France’s most brutal screen detectives.

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Jean-Hugues Anglade (Betty Blue) plays morally compromised cop Eddy Caplin. After a colleague’s suicide Eddy and his team crossed the line as they set out to clear the deceased’s name. At the start of the fourth season the team takes on the Turkish Mafia and confront’s Marseille’s godfather. Eddy visits his brother in prison and asks him to arrange an execution. Chief Superintendent Henri Brabant (Thierry René) has been sent by Internal Affairs to keep an eye on Caplan and his cohorts.

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When series creator Olivier Marchal departed after the first season critics accused the show of becoming ever more preposterous and losing its bite. This final series maintains its trademark levels of violence, murky characters and unexpected plot twists. Bowing out with a run that once again blurs the boundary between police officers and criminals the fourth season restores Braquo‘s reputation as it comes close to matching the quality of its first series.
After a previous false alarm fans might be tempted to think Braquo will return for a fifth season but the producers have unequivocally stated this is the definitive end. This viscerally exciting series is an essential purchase for those who like hard-edged and occasionally bonkers crime drama.

Braquo – The Complete Season Four is available to order from Amazon.

DVD News: The Disappearance

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Arrow Films has announced the Monday 4th July release DVD and Blu-ray release of intimate, character-driven French drama The Disappearance.

Having been a huge success in France, The Disappearance made its UK debut on BBC Four on Saturday 28th May.

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Léo Legrand

The French premiere of The Disappearance attracted over 5 million viewers and continued to draw in more viewers across its run time to become the best performing programme of 2015 on France 2.

For her performance in The Disappearance Alix Poisson (The Returned) won the Series Mania Award for Best Actress in 2015.

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Julien and Florence find themselves in every parent’s worst nightmare when their daughter Léa, a promising straight A-student, goes missing after attending Lyon’s Festival of Music. The last that was heard of her was a 3am answering machine message saying: “Daddy! It’s Leah, if you’re here please pick up!”

The Disappearance is available to pre-order from Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Disappearance-DVD-Francois-Xavier-Demaison/dp/B01FSGKJJW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466094968&sr=8-1&keywords=the+disappearance

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Disappearance-Blu-ray-Francois-Xavier-Demaison/dp/B01FSGKJO2/ref=sr_1_1_twi_blu_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1466094968&sr=8-1&keywords=the+disappearance

Totally Serialized – Interview with Caroline Proust

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Caroline Proust, star of Spiral, visited Institut Francais and revealed behind-the-scenes secrets of France’s most successful police series to more than 200 fans.

Frequently compared to The Wire, Spiral’s hard-edged view of French policing introduced British audiences to Gallic Noir. Now in its fifth season, a sixth will be produced later this year, this gritty drama tackles issues facing contemporary France through the eyes of its justice system.

The latest series has been the most successful to date in the UK. Critics have responded with levels of fervour not seen since The Bridge and ratings have topped the million mark.

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Making her début at a British event, a visibly delighted Proust admitted to being surprised at Spiral’s popularity in Britain.

‘We just knew that there’s been a million viewers for this season,’ she says. ‘Gregory (Fitoussi – Pierre Clément) told me. He worked here on Mr Selfridge and he told me that it was a big success here.’

Fresh from delivering a masterclass on how the show is made and her approach to playing Laure. Proust posed for photographs and signed autographs for over 200 fans.

She recently joined Facebook and has connected with over 3,000 enthusiasts.

‘I opened a Facebook account because I wanted to know what was happening in other countries,’ she explains. ‘This is very interesting for me to hear from Italian, Greek, American, and English fans. There are many English fans.’

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A classically trained actor, Proust was primarily known for her work on the stage when she joined the series. In between seasons she returns to the theatre. Would she be interested in appearing in the West End?

‘I would really like to do that. Maybe I can come with a French play. I came years ago with the play Game of Love and Chance.’

Spiral’s popularity is on the rise. Might now be the time to capitalise on its success and make a feature film?

‘We were wondering. The producer asked us if we want to do a cinema movie. First time we said yes, yes we want to do that and we said I don’t know if it’s a good idea,’ she says. ‘The thing which is very interesting is that you can show how complex human beings are. In the movie you only have one and a half hours.’

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Institut Francais have posted a podcast containing extracts from Caroline Proust and Anne Landois’ panels:

For information about future events please contact:

Institut Français, 17 Queensberry Place, London SW7 2DT

Info & booking: 020 7871 3515

http://www.institut-francais.org.uk/

Spiral – Series 5 can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Spiral-5-DVD-Gr%C3%A9gory-Fitoussi/dp/B00SBA4LRY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424559750&sr=8-1&keywords=spiral+series+5

DVD Review: Braquo – The Complete Season Three

Following hot on the heels of Barry Forshaw’s recently published indispensable overview Euro Noir, Arrow Films have unleashed a show several shades darker than the Scandi-crime series we’ve come to know, enjoy, and love in recent years.

Frequently compared to The Wire, Braquo is a hard hitting gritty police drama created by former officer turned screenwriter and director, Olivier Marchal (36 Quai des Orfèvres). The title is a French slang term for heist. A uniquely French take on the genre, this treacle thick uncompromising series is loaded with frenetic and electric twists from the opening frames right up until the closing moments of the final episode.

For two years fans have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment in the misadventures of anti-hero Eddy Caplan (Jean-Hugues Anglade). Plunged head-first into an ever widening spiral of deceit, destruction and corruption after a superior officer is accused of brutally assaulting a suspect during an interrogation. Facing loss of hard earned status and probable imprisonment this long standing member of the force takes his own life. Promoted to the head of the team, Caplan’s immediate priority is to clear his former boss’ name. An attempt to snatch the suspect from a hospital goes wrong with devastating consequences…

From the second season onwards the writing team was bolstered with the addition of Abdel Raouf Dafri (Mesrine, A Prophet). Harder edged than the première series, the adrenaline fuelled sophomore outing for Caplan and his crew ramped up the tension with increased action and intense violence alongside finely tuned characterisations. Pushing the envelope, series two offered up a pyrrhic tale of revenge and redemption that ended with an unexpected nerve shattering cliffhanger which left fans waiting two years to see how the team would deal with the consequences.

Successful in their quest to rejoin the elite unit, celebrations are cut short when Theo (Nicolas Duvauchelle) is caught in an explosion. With their friend and colleague rushed to hospital suffering from 80 % burns, Caplan and the crew are determined to avenge this atrocity. Cautioned by their boss against administering swift, and illegal, punishment the emotionally shattered team regroups to find ways of ensnaring the guilty party.

Returning to active duty, the unit investigates a human trafficking operation. Caught in the crossfire of a Mafia war that threatens to douse Paris in human blood, the team is plagued by bouts of infighting and must be constantly vigilant against double-crossing by members of their own department. Torn apart by grief and fury, Caplan and his crew continue their walk along the blurred line separating law from illegality. Refusing to let due process stand in the way of punishing wrongdoers this band of maverick cops is prepared to go to any lengths necessary in order to deliver retribution.

Shot through with a breathtaking barrage of dynamic action, murky characters who are never quite what they seem, and a constant stream of cigarette smoke, the series packs in layer upon layer of labyrinthine sub-plots. An addictive show that gets under the viewer’s skin and doesn’t shake free until the final credits have rolled. Over eight spellbinding hours a dark and murky tale unfolds at a breakneck speed involving the Eastern European Mafia, a former police officer turned kidnapper, and a woman hell-bent on seeking revenge.

Scripts from the writer of Mesrine and A Prophet have remodelled the show and given it a distinct identity unlike anything else on TV. Suspense filled and littered with twists which will leave the viewer feeling punch drunk. A mesmerizing glimpse into Paris’ darker crevices, Braquo is a worthy companion to the series currently being produced by our Scandinavian cousins.

Braquo – The Complete Series Three can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Braquo-Series-DVD-Jean-Hugues-Anglade/dp/B00KIM2SL4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1405946618&sr=8-2&keywords=braquo

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Braquo-Series-Blu-ray-Jean-Hugues-Anglade/dp/B00KIM2TGS/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1405946827&sr=8-2&keywords=braquo+blu

Braquo – Trilogy can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Braquo-Trilogy-DVD-Jean-Hugues-Anglade/dp/B00KIM2SKA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1405946865&sr=8-2&keywords=braquo+trilogy

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Braquo-Trilogy-Blu-ray-Jean-Hugues-Anglade/dp/B00KIM2RJM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405946865&sr=8-1&keywords=braquo+trilogy

Euro Noir by Barry Forshaw is available from Amazon and all major booksellers:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Euro-Noir-Essential-European-Essentials/dp/1843442450/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405947305&sr=8-1&keywords=euro+noir