Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Maigret: A Review

Having watched Maigret last night with Rowan Atkinson in the starring role I have seen various comments on the production so I thought I would write a review. Bear in mind I am not a professional critic, and the below are just my opinions. There again a professional critic only gives their opinion so..
Atmosphere: The locations/sets I felt did give a good atmosphere of post WWII France. We know it's post-war as Maigret says that Paris has seen enough Gestapo tactics not to want anymore. I am not expert in fashion but the clothing seemed to me appropriate to the era.
Acting: I will come back to this later in the review but overall I felt the acting of all parties was of a good if not outstanding quality. One black mark I personally feel, although opinions vary, is in the total absence of accents. While noting as above that the physical atmosphere was achieved I felt drama had taken a huge step backwards to the 1930s when everyone spoke in an English accent regardless of their character's nationality. The only nods to the location not being in Britain were the place and character names. Even Maigret was referred to on occasion as 'Mister' and not 'M'sieur'.
Maigret himself has been described as a grey character without much to him, and I think this comes to the crux of the issue. I personally disagree with this characterisation as he shows his character not in the more overt manner of modern detectives but in his single-minded pursuit of the villain. We see he is not an automaton through his reaction to the widower of the latest victim and his young family. Maigret to be sure cares deeply about what he does. For him the victims are not just names, as they are for his masters. they are people with real lives, and they are those left behind when loved ones are killed.
So why the approbation to the drama? In my opinion we have been spoilt as a viewing audience. Modern murder mysteries have convoluted plots with the guilty party only exposed in the last five minutes of the hour or two hour investigation. The investigators be they police or private plough their way unerringly through a pile of false flags arresting and releasing suspects until they eventually get the right person. We have been spoilt by the deducting gymnastics of Holmes, Poirot and their ilk, the sudden 'lightbulb' moments out of the blue accorded to Barnaby, Lewis etc. The closest we have come to normality is in Brenda Blethyn's portrayal of Vera.
Then we have Maigret. Here we are presented with a normal policeman charged with the capture of a serial killer. A killer who thus far has killed five times in six months and left no clue. Maigret is a man with the weight of the world bearing down heavily on his shoulders. His immediate superior keeps demanding results. His political master keeps demanding results – in actuality more interested in the damage to his reputation than the victims. Both threatening to replace Maigret if he doesn't produce results. The constant hounding by the press demanding results. To his credit refusing to be bullied into an arrest – as we have seen many times in reality – of the wrong man. He is persistent to the point of relentlessness – if he asks a question he will keep asking it over and over wearing the suspect down until it is answered. After a masterstroke Maigret is gifted with what he craves. A rough description of the suspect and a physical clue. He proceeds to follow where the clue leads him, now unlike previously aimlessly searching he becomes a bloodhound following a scent. When he finds his quarry up a metaphorical tree he doesn't give up, but keeps barking until the quarry comes to ground and is captured.
Maigret is not a Poirot, Holmes, Lewis or Barnaby, nor even a Vera. He is Maigret and deserves to be treated as such.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Independence for Wales?

This blog isn't written because I crave independence for Wales. Frankly I don't think we are ready, for many reasons. It is written to highlight , in the main, the second reason below which nobody ever mentions.
Around the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum there was chatter about whether Wales could be independent. With my head finally ruling my heart I have to say my opinion is no, for two reasons, one of which is often discussed, but one which I have never heard discussed.
To begin with the often discussed reason, the economy. Currently Wales depends heavily on income from Westminster via the Barnett Formula, which even Joel Barnett himself has discredited as only intended to be a short term measure and no longer fit for purpose. The secondary means of income is from EU subsidies and grants. Finally businesses in Wales do actually produce some wealth for the country, and now we are apparently going to have tax raising powers we shall see what happens there. However, the fact remains that Wales does not currently have a sufficiently robust independent economy that could survive without external input. To achieve that I think we need to find something at which we can be world leaders and make it work for us. Without that any attempts at independence will fail.
However, the second reason is, I feel even more fundamental. It took Scotland decades to achieve a position where they were confident enough, and able, to call a referendum on independence. I believe the bedrock of that confidence is that as a nation they believed in the Scottish Nationalist Party. They believed that Scotland should be governed by the Scottish for the Scottish.
I am not a nationalist per se, but I do recognise the sense in the logic that you cannot be truly independent whilst allowing, indeed voting for, the country to be governed by a party whose roots are in what would be a different country. In Wales, ever since devolution in 1999, we have been governed by the Labour Party. Every election for the last 16 years. A party with its roots in London. To me it is farcical to think that Wales, with its capital city of Cardiff, could be independent whilst the governing party is based in London.
In a nutshell, until Plaid Cymru demonstrate an ability to govern, and until we as a nation recognise that ability and vote them into power, Wales will remain part of the United Kingdom.