Maigret tend un piège

Maigret tend un piège
Maigret tend un piège
  • Original release date: 29.01.58 (Paris, 116′)
  • Country: France/Italy
  • Director: Jean Delannoy
  • Certification number / date: 26754 on 07.05.58
  • Italian release date: 24/09/58
  • Production companies: Intermondia Films, Paris (France), Jolly Film (Trieste/Roma).
  • Alternative titles (+ dates and running times): Italy – Il commissario Maigret; UK – Maigret Sets a Trap (1959 – 119′)
  • Cast: Jean Gabin, Annie Girardot, Jean Desailly

Another French / Italian co-production, another film with very little Italian involvement. As with Ces dames préfèrent le mambo, Lino Ventura represents the Italian acting profession, but at least this time it came from a production company with some proper domestic pedigree: Jolly Film, who went on to make some true Italian classics (A Fistful of Dollars, Sacco and Vanzetti).

Based on the novels by Georges Simenon, the character of Maigret had previously featured in French cinema, played by both French (Maurice Manson, Albert Préjean) and American (Charles Laughton). Jean Gabin, though, made the role his own, and appeared in a couple of sequels, Maigret et l’affaire Saint-Fiacre (59) and Maigret voit rouge (63). The character then also featured in a series of Italian movies in the mid sixties, featuring Gino Cervi as the dogged detective.

According to James Travers (Filmsdesfrance):

Jean Gabin stars in one of his most famous roles, that of Inspector Maigret, in this atmospheric 1950s policier directed by one of France’s most talented directors, Jean Delannoy.

Of all the screen actors to have played Maigret, Gabin is by far the best, and in this film (the first of his three film appearances in the role) he brilliantly portrays the ruthless cunning and world weariness of Georges Simenon’s famous fictional detective.

The film typifies the kind of crime thriller that was popular in France in the 1950s, with its shadowy sets and exotic characters, very evocative of the American film noir of the 1940s. Paul Misraki’s haunting Maigret theme seems to hang in the air like a venomous fog, drawing the audience inescapably into a dark and dangerous twilight world. Some parts of the film are quite disturbing, particularly the murder attempts, some scenes having a chilling resonance with Hitchcock’s Psycho. However, it has to be said that the film is much closer to the conventional policier of its time than to the psychological thriller it could have been.

There are three things which make this a particularly memorable film. First, there is the atmosphere, which is relentlessly dark and heavy, conveying the sense that there is something menacing lurking just out of camera shot. Secondly, the plot is unusually sophisticated for a film of this genre, with some very pleasing twists and turns and, best of all, a totally implausible murderer. Finally, the acting is of a very high calibre, not just Jean Gabin. Rising star Annie Girardot is captivating as the elusive and mysterious Madame Maurin, whilst Jean Desailly, a stalwart of French cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, gives one of his best screen performances.

Delannoy could perhaps have been a little more daring and pushed the suspense thriller dimension rather than adhering so rigidly to the conventions of the policier genre. Nevertheless, in spite of this, Maigret tend un piège is a classic of its type, and one which has aged well. It is of course an absolute must for fans of Simenon’s celebrated detective.

Jean Gabin in Maigret tend un piège
Jean Gabin in Maigret tend un piège
About Matt Blake 889 Articles
The WildEye is a blog dedicated to the wild world of Italian cinema (and, ok, sometimes I digress into discussing films from other countries as well). Peplums, comedies, dramas, spaghetti westerns... they're all covered here.

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