When an artist is prolific and productive until the end of a long life lived well, it’s a source of marvel when they pass, to finally realize just how easy it was to have taken them for granted. That would count with much of the French New Wave; while François Truffaut was only 52 when he died in 1984, and Éric Rohmer recently died at the age of 89, Alain Resnais’ weird and witty “Wild Grass” was only a preface to a new film he’s shooting at the age of 88, and while there are indications he may have retired, Jacques Rivette will be 83 come March, and Godard, well, Godard is as easy to take for granted at a still-contentious 80 years of age as it was to think that a new Claude Chabrol movie would be on its way every couple of years. These insouciant elders are like cognac or brandy, in their own way; you could always count on reaching for the top shelf when a taste struck. “Inspector Bellamy,” a Georges Simenon adaptation that stars bulky axiom of French cinema Gérard Depardieu, was Chabrol’s last film in a fifty-year career; he was 80 when he died last September. Murder and mortality are on the menu in “Inspector Bellamy,” which opens, literally, with whistling in a graveyard and ends on a gorgeous shot that starts at sarcasm, then rises to the horizon, the eternity of azure waves beneath a blue sky. (A remembrance of things pastel.) Bellamy’s vacation plans are altered by the arrival of a half-brother and a stranger. Appearances deceive: part of the delight of Chabrol is how subtly yet surely he skewers each character as their layers of deceit are peeled away. Chabrol’s final feature is intoxicating to the end. The music is by a son of the director, Matthieu Chabrol. 110m. (Ray Pride)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.