Dinner was eaten and I was just feeling a bit lazy as I was trawling through the various choices of programs on the television when I landed on an in-progress episode of Maigret, filmed in Prague, pretending to be Paris back in the 1930s and spoken in French by the French-Belgian actor, Bruno Cremer. (6 October 1929 – 7 August 2010)
I’m not sure why I easily get snagged into these stories. Maybe it is the soft spoken actor pensively smoking his pipe while unravelling one murder or another as much as it is the spacious rooms in some of the houses they visit with their high ceilings and, the old wooden screen doors that don’t quite close as they slam gently after everyone who passes through them; the old dial telephones, the tall wide old cars that remind me of one my maternal grandfather drove. Perhaps it is the sound of French which keeps me listening to see what I may remember from the French classes I had taken or the techniques of the film making like the use of shadow to add dramatic effect to the mystery.
Inspector Maigret always asks the suspects he is questioning at the police precinct if they are hungry and if they are he orders sandwiches and beer for all who are there. Even though the subject is serious, there is a gentle quality about his manner, though he can get in gear and go rushing off on foot or by car; he can shout when he thinks he’s not getting through to individuals. We never see his wife, though he does phone her to let her know not to wait up for him or give her some other quick message.
The other foreign language police program I have often watched is Montablano. I had a couple of years of Latin in high school, but no Italian so this is a little more challenging since English subtitles are short and Italians speak fast. There is more comedy in this series as the frustrations are evident when Salvo asks a question of his right hand man and is given highly detailed answers or when the bumbling and nervous fellow who acts as a receptionist crashes onto or off of the set.
Even though these Mhz productions do not break through programming every ten or fifteen minutes to advertise, the episodes last for about two hours each, leaving me with a sense of having been on an adventure.