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INSPECTOR BELLAMY

Inspector Bellamy, the last movie Claude Chabrol finished before his death in September at 80, may occupy only a high middling position in the prolific director's oeuvre, but it's loaded with the virtues that characterized his remarkable career. Paris' celebrated police chief Paul Bellamy (Gérard Depardieu) is introduced rusticating with his wife at their country home. But can a born sleuth ever truly take a vacation? The inspector is attempting to solve a crossword puzzle when he's interrupted by an agitated mystery man (Jacques Gamblin) lurking about the garden. Once the stranger makes the unlikely confession that a recent car-crash fatality was in reality "a sort of murder" that he contrived in the service of a murky insurance scam, the game is afoot. Bellamy is a cop whose professional nosiness is exceeded only by his fondness for life's little pleasures — eating, smoking, patting his wife on the rump. He drinks, too, especially after his ne'er-do-well kid brother (Clovis Cornillac) shows up. For much of its 110 minutes, Inspector Bellamy is a pleasant, deceptively light divertissement in which the mutually resentful brothers spend considerable time arguing over nothing. The alert viewer may note, however, that Chabrol is carefully dropping clues that have less to do with the mystery man's plot than with the personality of Bellamy, a self-described good Samaritan. The film does not appear, at first glance, to be one of Chabrol's characteristically mordant assaults on bourgeois pretension. Of course, appearances can be deceptive. (Playhouse, Royal, Town Center)