Tag Archives: france

In my quest to rid myself of rigidly formulaic American media, I was shocked to come across something from France: Engrenages (Translated as “Spiral” in English).

There is a terrific French TV police series in France called Engrenages (the first four seasons are available on Netflix here in the USA).  In addition to containing plenty of exciting action (I have to tell you that it shows rather grisly macabre crime and forensic scenes), the series delineates the different and challenging ways under which violent crimes are investigated in Paris by the police judiciare, which are handled by an investigating magistrate who reviews the allegations made through private interviews and decides whether or not to move the process forward to prosecution.  Such a system is essentially the opposite of what we Americans, and our great cousins across the sea, England use; that is an adversarial system based on common law versus the Napoleonic Code in France (which has its origins dating back to the Roman Empire).  The Napoleonic Code (also known as civil law) is still in action and it makes for fascinating viewing compared to the American criminal justice system as depicted on TV or in the movies.

The characters are very complex as well.  The sheer brutality the French police can get away with while being supervised by a French magistrate is scandalous to any American viewer.  Virtually all interrogations start with some sort of beating and there is no such thing as a Miranda warning.  The main characters are:

Police Captain Laure Berthaud.  She is a capable Paris criminal police officer who is very tenacious and tough as nails using questionable methods.  Devoted to her work, she is very attached to her male subordinates and would do (and does) anything to protect them when they make a mistake.

Assistant Prosecutor Pierre Clément.  A young magistrate with a promising career, he believes in his profession and in the integrity of justice.  That said, his success and his righteousness provoke the hostility of his superior, the powerful Republic Prosecutor of Paris.  He is close friends with Captain Berthaud and Judge Roban but also, more surprisingly, with Joséphine Karlsson (my favorite).

Judge François Roban.  An experienced investigating magistrate (juge d’instruction), solitary and hardworking, he is cold and even cruel with suspects and witnesses, but he is also aware that his job has nearly destroyed his life and the people he loved.

Lawyer Joséphine Karlsson.  She is my favorite character of all hands down, a clever, beautiful and ruthless young lawyer who is always looking for cases that will earn her the maximum amount of fame and money.  She finds it exhilarating to defend monsters and does not hesitate to cross or even double-cross legal and ethical lines to get what she wants.  What comes around goes around however, as her shady dealings and her hate for police eventually gets her into trouble.

The first four seasons are on Netflix and a fifth and sixth have been ordered in France.  As someone who is in the legal profession, I find the show nothing short of fascinating.  Engrenages makes American cop shows look like a joke.  In addition, the French language sounds like music and is a pleasure to hear.  Engrenages is also worth watching for the sake of appreciating the significant cultural differences between Europe and America.  I will tell you this, while watching Engrenages you get the feeling that the Puritans’ legacy is alive and well in the U.S.A.


Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Movie Reviews


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I can’t believe it took me this long to review a Pink Panther movie.

I can’t believe it took me this long to review a Pink Panther movie.

After looking over the site, I realized that I had not reviewed any of the Pink Panther movies.  Well than nonsense ends now.

Though my favorite Pink Panther movie is A Shot In The Dark, we will look at the Pink Panther Strikes Again because I had the pleasure of watching it with Dr. H.

In this one, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is about to be released from a mental hospital– in which he has resided since being driven crazy by Clouseau– the very afternoon of his release hearing he is visited by none other than Clouseau.  Clouseau has come to speak on behalf of his former boss because he “is not without influence.”  When Clouseau is through `helping,’ his former boss, he is driven from the premises by the relapsed, stark raving mad Dreyfus.  And it’s only the first scene of the French Inspector’s antics that, before it is over, include a fantastic bout with Cato, a trip to Oktoberfest, encounters with a dozen hit-men from around the world, a beautiful Russian spy named Olga (Lesley-Anne Down), a surprise Egyptian spy and a one-man assault on a castle.

I know, some of you may be thinking “but J.P., the movie’s plot is totally absurd,” and yes you are correct.  Seller’s Clouseau requires a totally absurd plot to perform his laugh out loud style of comedy.  There was no end to the ways Sellers could make you laugh; from a subtle expression– an eye averted or perhaps the slight raising of an eyebrow– to the most overt slapstick, he was the master.  Physically, practically all he had to do to get a laugh was show up.  One of my favorite lines in movie history is when Clouseau is questioning the residents/staff of a manor and he has managed to get a mace stuck on his arm.  He swings at bee flying around and smashes a priceless Steinway piano–well its not one any more:

Clouseau:  “A beekeeper who has lost his voice, a cook who thinks he is a gardener and a witness to murder . . . Oh yes it is obvious to my trained eye that there is much more going on here than meets the ear . . . (swings a buzzing bee but smashes piano)  . . . before you are dismissed Mr. Stutterstutt, I suggest you count your bees, you may find that one of them is missing . . .”

Lady-Witness:  “You ruined that piano”

Clouseau:  “What is the price of one piano compared to the terrible crime that has been committed here?”

Lady-Witness: “But that is a priceless Steinway!”

Clouseau:  “Not any more.”

It may not look that great on paper, but watching Sellers perform it always makes me laugh.  I included this scene as one of the clips so enjoy.

The clips chosen are the longest I have put on the site since its creation.  I thought it was necessary because to really appreciate the humor you need to watch the entire scene.


Posted by on October 1, 2010 in Movie Reviews


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Ridley Scott’s: Robin Hood (2010) Not Blackhawk Down but not bad either.

I must confess I did not have high expectations for this film at all. Perhaps it is because I was still polluted from Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991)—the rigidly formulaic tale of this tired story.

Be that as it may, once again Ridley Scott hit me for a six with his version of the Hood legend by providing a back-story to the traditional tale with the movie ending just as Robin begins his career as an outlaw.

The movie starts on the battlefield where Robin Longstride (Russell Crowe) is an archer in King Richard the Lionheart’s army. Following a successful day of battle, Robin unwinds with his compatriots Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Allan A’Dayle (Alan Doyle) and Little John (Kevin Durand) but they manage to land in the stocks and are forced to sit out the next day’s battle. A battle where the King catches an arrow in the throat with his last request to return his crown to England. Robin and his men are freed from the stocks by a young boy to return home. All the while, the King Phillip of France plans to conquer England by enlisting the help of Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong). Godfrey, a traitorous Englishman with a French connection ambushes the Royal Guard. Robin and his men happen upon the ambush as it occurs and fight back, killing many while Godfrey escapes. Robin goes to Sir Robert Loxley whose last wish is for his sword to be returned to his father. The film then follows Robin as he returns to Loxley’s home of Nottingham with the impending French attack looking over England’s shoulder.

Robin then takes over the role of the dead Sir Robert Loxley in order to prevent land and other estates being turned over to the crown for lack of an heir. He also has the bonus of a ready-made wife Maid Marion—who needs some lessons on how to curtsy a lost art. As Robin begins with the charade he ends up filling the role of the real nobility quite well oozing Noblesse Oblige as the story progresses. Eventually there is a showdown between England and France and the mortal enemies made along the way. The movie also provides a bit of Girl Power in that Maid Marion dresses in full armor and fights in the last battle.

While a tired story, this film solidifies my perception of Ridley Scott as one of the premier period piece film makers of all time. Scott having already made Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and of course Blackhawk Down, he continues to show us his cinematic eye. Each shot has such an authenticity that the audience can nearly smell the grimy earthiness of old England. Then Scott stages action scenes amongst this terrain. This may not be your mom’s Robin Hood, but it is the most exciting.

Naturally the film suffers from a lackluster story and nearly non-existent character development but is not a waste. Shot in such a way that suggests a true understanding of the period, the film keeps your eyes interested.

Also it was good to see William Hurt on the silver screen again.

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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Movie Reviews


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