Inspector Lavardin (1986)

Another good but not great murder mystery from Chabrol featuring the second outing of his snarky detective in a tale about immoralities. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,189

Dir. Claude Chabrol
1986 | France | Crime/Drama/Mystery | 100 mins | 1.66:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be at least NC16 for sexual references

Cast: Jean Poiret, Jean-Claude Brialy, Bernadette Lafont
Plot: The titular inspector travels to a small coastal town to investigate the puzzling death of a devout and wealthy Roman Catholic writer who is found murdered on a beach. When Inspector Lavardin arrives to investigate, he discovers that the widow, Helene, is an old flame he hasn’t seen in 20 years.
Source: MK2

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Immorality
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

People may not be what they seem in Claude Chabrol’s follow-up to Poulet au vinaigre (1985), featuring the same snarky detective, Inspector Lavardin, as he tries to solve another murder mystery involving the upper-class. 

Jean Poiret reprises his role as the Inspector in another charismatic performance.  He prowls around without nary a care about trespassing private property, growls with the slightest agitation and wants his eggs not a second overcooked.  As he says, breakfast is very important to investigators. 

After the naked body of a well-to-do writer, also the town’s moral guardian, washes up on the beach, Lavardin begins asking difficult questions, hoping to nab the murderer from a slip of the tongue. 

To further complicate matters, the deceased’s wife used to be the inspector’s lover.  Chabrol keeps things fairly tight, though it is not always a brisk affair. 

“I’m willing, if I must, to forget my code of ethics to avoid inconvenience.”

Overall, I enjoyed this a bit more than Poulet though like the first film, Inspector Lavardin is good but not great.  Apart from Lavardin’s unorthodox methods, which are sometimes bewildering if ultimately effective, what keeps the story going is the underlying theme of immoralities. 

You can already tell how old the film is when being gay, which spurs a quaint subplot, is seen as an abnormality—or a distraction. Elsewhere, a local theatre production wants to stage a play with the title ‘Our Father Who Fart in Heaven’, to the chagrin of the deceased who wanted to ban them. 

But are they suspects in the investigation?  There’s also a fishy nightclub with a suspicious owner.  As with most murder mysteries, do expect a fair share of unexpected revelations.

Grade: B



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