Spiral – series 7 (Engrenages, France, 2019)

Riveting characterisation

I remember watching the first episode of Spiral in 2006, which (if I remember correctly!) featured the naked, dead body of a female prostitute found on a waste tip. I suspect that it was this misogynist trope that put me off but when I gave it another go, I was gripped. Like The Bridge, Spiral succeeds because of the brilliant characterisation which is perfectly embodied by the actors. After finishing series 7 I am hankering to go back to the beginning particularly to observe Gilou’s (Thierry Godard) arc (character development) given what he does at the end of series 7. Godard’s bear-like shagginess, and mournful face, perfectly wraps Gilou’s idealism in a packet of cynicism.

Laure (Caroline Proust) is another conflicted character, a staple of the detective genre for many years, and her narrative thread about motherhood has been particularly emotional. Proust is brilliant and I wonder why she doesn’t do film.

One of the difficulties of long form TV series is to sustain interest in characters; sometimes they need to be replaced for dramatic purposes or possibly for personal reasons of the actors. At the end of series 7 we may be seeing the end of Phillipe Duclos as Judge Roban who has reached retirement age. In his final scene he sat in the chair opposite to where he normally sat and we see, for a second only before the cut, his expression which seemed to be interrogating what he had done during his whole career. It’s on example of the often brilliant direction, which is relatively rare in television though is increasingly apparent – see also Mad Men (US, 2007-15). Whilst most of Spiral is efficiently shot, necessary in a fast-paced, 12-part television series, there are moments were the camera position is commenting upon the action. In one episode, the alienation between Laure and Gilou is evidenced by the crane shot outside their hotel bedrooms.

Audrey Fleurot’s Joséphine Karlsson is another compelling character. A lawyer who started this season behind bars and, inevitably, the experience changes her but there is no simplistic evolution of her character. The scene at the end of a court case where she helps a fellow inmate, features her trying to hug the defendent through a glass partition: a brilliant visualisation of Joséphine’s character development. Fleurot is another top notch actor; she manages to convey Joséphine’s viciousness and vulnerability in the same expression.

For reasons beyond my ken, television series have not been of interest to me this year but Spiral is one of my audio-visual highlights of 2019.

Gremlins wouldn’t allow Des Murphy to post this comment so I’ve added it here:

Nick wonders why Caroline Proust doesn’t do films. She does but not many. I saw her as a teenager in a 1994 Cedric Klapisch film, “Le peril Jeune” (a play on the expression “yellow peril”), a coming-of-age drama which also featured Romain Duris who went on to become a major star in French cinema, while Proust has been restricted to TV movies and series. Likewise both Thierry Godard (Gilou) and Audrey Fleuriot (Christine Karlson). Godard had a minor part in a Phillipe Loriot film called “Welcome” and did a few more films but never in a major role. Likewise Fleuriot. She had very much a secondary role in “Intouchable”, one of the greatest box office success in French film history. She also had a minor (English-speaking) role in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”. Both she and Godard were among the lead actors of, for me, one of the best historical dramas in the history of TV: Un Village francais (2009 – 17). But not, so far, in cinema.

There seems to be an almost-Chinese Wall between film and TV actors which is gradually eroding in the USA and UK. Some leading  French film actors (Gerard Depardieu, Kad Merad, Jean-Pierre Darrousin, Mathieu Kassovitc, Carole Bouquet, Natalie Baye, Karin Viard) have appeared in French TV series in the last few years, it’s but seldom in the other direction. It’s a pity that this “glass ceiling” which seems to prevent “TV actors” getting leading film roles persists. It seems to be breaking down in the UK (eg Jude Law in “The New Pope” ) and the US, where Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern and Merrill Streep were in a recent TV series (“Big Little Lies”). It’s a pity this persists!


2 Responses

  1. […] Spiral – series 7 (Engrenages, France, 2019) […]

  2. […] Spiral – season 7 (TV) […]

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