October 21, 2019  (Web Review)

Detective

Kino, 98 min., in French w/English subtitles, not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s 1985 crime drama plays on the pulp movie conventions that inspired earlier films of his such as Breathless and Band of Outsiders. Set almost entirely within the Hotel Concorde Saint-Lazare in Paris, the story involves a boxing manager (French rock legend Johnny Hallyday) in debt to the mob, a married couple (Claude Brasseur and Nathalie Baye) also trying to collect from the manager, and a disgraced hotel detective (Laurent Terzieff) working with his nephew (Jean-Pierre Léaud) to investigate the two-year-old unsolved murder that cost him his job. Godard adapts an original script by producer Alain Sarde and (collaborating with his screenwriting partner Anne-Marie Mieville) then riffs on it, playing with and deconstructing the clichés of classic crime thrillers while also tossing in offbeat humor, philosophical asides, and literary quotes and references. Sprinkled throughout are threats, affairs, older men with young girlfriends, gratuitous nudity, a young boxer who trains without ever leaving his room, and a chaotic shoot-out. The images are bright and colorful and the soundtrack features fragments of classic and jazz compositions that come and go abruptly. Détective is one of the most playful films that Godard made during his return to the big screen in the 1980s, and one that will be appreciated by Godard fans. Extras include select scene commentary by film critic James Quandt, and a booklet. Recommended. (S. Axmaker)