Partners in Crime



Release date in France: Oct. 15

PARIS -- French filmmakers have lately taken to Agatha Christie adaptations in a big way, with four releases in as many years and a fifth due in a few months. Most active in this vein has been Pascal Thomas whose "Partners in Crime" ("Le Crime est notre affaire") is his third Christie since "By the Pricking of My Thumbs" in 2005. The crime-writer's unflagging popularity and Thomas's lively handling of the story should ensure that the movie reaches a broad audience in France and will make forays into art house cinemas in Europe and possibly North America.

Thomas retains the central pairing of Andre Dussollier and Catherine Frot as the married sleuths Belisaire and Prudence Beresford and sticks to the standard ingredients of a remote country setting, the discovery of a dead body, the mysterious dying-off of some of the main suspects and the final uncovering of the guilty party by our intrepid amateur investigators.

"Partners in Crime," Christie's early (1929) collection of short stories, is a series of spoofs of other detective fiction writers, and it's clear that Thomas is as interested in spoofing other crime movies as in telling any individual story. Fans will have difficulty identifying which of Christie's stories he has most drawn on.

The Beresfords become involved when Prudence's aunt Babette (Annie Cordy) reports seeing a man strangling a woman in a train. To find out more, Prudence gets herself employed as cook in a chateau owned by the cantankerous Roderick Charpentier (Claude Rich), whose daughter and three sons are bickering and scheming over who is going to inherit when the old man dies.

Sure enough, within a day or two Prudence has uncovered a stiff in the cellar. Everyone in the family is a possible suspect, of course, as are the family doctor Lagarde (Hippolyte Girardot) and a local dancing instructress, and there is even (essential in all crime fiction these days, it seems) a Russian connection.

Set amid the wintry landscapes of the French Alps, with a set of splendid wolf sculptures in the chateau grounds, the movie contains frequent flashes of humor, notably in the gentle banter between the Beresfords, portrayed as a kind of Gallic version of Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles. Thomas also allows himself moments of fantasy, including two dream sequences, a talking painting, a grimacing church icon and a parody, involving Dussollier in a kilt, of the image of Marilyn Monroe with skirt upraised over an air-vent.

Production companies: Les Films Francais, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema
Cast: Andre Dussollier, Catherine Frot, Claude Rich, Annie Cordy, Chiara Mastroianni, Melvil Poupaud, Christian Vadim, Alexandre Lafaurie, Yves Afonso.
Director: Pascal Thomas.
Writers: Clemence de Bieville, Francois Caviglioli, Pascal Thomas.
Producers: Nathalie Lafaurie, Hubert Watrinet, Nicole Fim.
Director of photography: Renan Polles.
Production design: Katia Wyszkop.
Music: Reinhardt Wagner.
Costume designer: Laurence Esnault
Editors: Catherine Dubeau, Elena Manso, Melanie Mourey.
Sales: StudioCanal
No rating, 109 minutes.

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