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"Monsieur Spade: A Detective's French Sojourn Falls Short of Expectations"

Monsieur Spade

By Bhawana SinghPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
"Monsieur Spade: A Detective's French Sojourn Falls Short of Expectations"
Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash

In the world of detective fiction, few characters are as iconic as Sam Spade. Originating from Dashiell Hammett's classic novel "The Maltese Falcon" and immortalized by Humphrey Bogart in the 1941 film adaptation, Spade stands alongside other legendary gumshoes like Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. The prospect of a fresh take on Spade, particularly with the involvement of esteemed creators Scott Frank and Tom Fontana, along with the talented Clive Owen as the lead, raised expectations for the AMC miniseries "Monsieur Spade." However, despite the ace talent on board, the series proves to be a disappointment.

The narrative takes a bold departure from the familiar San Francisco setting and throws Spade into the French countryside in 1955. Clive Owen steps into the iconic detective's shoes, tasked with delivering a young girl named Teresa to her mysterious French father. The unfamiliar locale and time period set the stage for a unique exploration of the character. Unfortunately, the execution fails to live up to the promising premise.

The story kicks off with Spade encountering skepticism from the local police, who dismiss his name with a disdainful, "Samuel Spade. Stupid fucking name." As the plot unfolds, Spade's mission takes unexpected turns, leading him to the picturesque town of Bozouls. The charming widow Gabrielle, portrayed by Chiara Mastroianni, becomes a central figure in Spade's life. Fast forward to 1963, and Spade has abandoned his native San Francisco, enjoying the good life in an estate inherited from Gabrielle.

The twist in "Monsieur Spade" lies in the stark contrast between the iconic tough detective and the laid-back retiree living a seemingly idyllic life. The locals, aware of Spade's former profession, discuss it in a playful manner, finding it incongruous with the man they have come to know. The narrative weaves a complex web involving murder, long-buried secrets from World War II and the Algerian conflict, secret societies within the Catholic Church, British spies, and more.

While the intricate plot isn't inherently problematic, it becomes so convoluted that a late arrival of a Very Special Guest Star is necessary to attempt — and somewhat fail — to unravel the mysteries for Spade and the audience. This climactic exposition is a standout moment in an otherwise lackluster series, shedding light on the convoluted events preceding it.

The sprawling nature of the mystery sidelines the titular character, leaving audiences with extended segments focusing on supporting characters. From Jean-Pierre's struggles with PTSD to the inappropriate dynamics between soldier Henri and the underage Teresa, these diversions contribute to a lack of focus on Spade's central conflict. The series fails to explore adequately how the passage of time and change in scenery impact Spade's ability to navigate the world of detective work.

Clive Owen's portrayal of Spade does have its moments, particularly when the character engages in banter in French or channels Dean Martin's "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?" for a violent interrogation. However, the overall portrayal lacks the expected internal and external conflict that would arise from a seasoned detective returning to the field after a significant hiatus.

Despite nods to "The Maltese Falcon" and engaging supporting performances, including Rebecca Root and Matthew Beard as intriguing neighbors, "Monsieur Spade" misses the mark. The series is not without its charms, but it fails to capture the wit and energy expected from the collaboration of Scott Frank, Tom Fontana, and the iconic character of Sam Spade. In the end, "Monsieur Spade" emerges as a promising concept that falls short of its potential, leaving viewers yearning for the hard-boiled brilliance they anticipated.


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Bhawana Singh

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  • Shamreena4 months ago

    Great work dear😊✨

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