I just finished watching a gem of a miniseries. In English it is called Witnesses, in French – Les Temoins. It aired in France in October of 2014 and is a detective story/police procedural/psychological thriller. And it was excellent.

Consisting of six one hour episodes, you can watch it with English Subtitles via streaming from Netflix. There are two detectives at the center of this story – one is a 50-ish retired chief of detectives, and the other is an early thirties female detective. They are working out of the Lille, France homicide bureau, and the crimes are committed in and around Les Treports, France, – a seacoast town on the English Channel, up the coast from Dieppe, and north by northwest of Paris.

Here is a look at the crimes: In a brand new model home (here called a show house) three bodies are discovered – all quite dead, and arranged in the homes like a family – a woman, a man, and a teenage daughter. Here’s the thing – these people are not related.

Simultaneously, fresh graves have been opened, and the bodies taken – and put into these model homes. Not once, not twice, but three times – and this is just in the first episode. The retired detective , Paul Maisonneuve is called in because a framed picture of him was found in the model house.

The lead detective is Sandra Winckler, who eight years back studied under Maisonneuve at the police academy.

Continue reading

Arne Dahl: A Nordic TV Series

Ever heard of Arne Dahl?

One true answer is that the name Arne Dahl is the pen name for Swedish novelist Jan Arnald. Another answer is that 5 of his novels have been made into a tv series named… Arne Dahl.

That’s right. Scandinavia continues to turn out top-notch thrillers and mysteries. If you liked the films made from the Millenium Trilogy beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or TV Series like The Bridge, The Killing, Dicte, or the series called Annika Bengtzon, then Arne Dahl is a series that you should see.

The first five novels penned by Arne Dahl have been made into this TV series. Each of the five stories has two ninety minute episodes. That means the first season is five 3 hour mysteries.

This Swedish crime thriller series is about an elite team of detectives, hand-picked for their varied skills. They will be working under the command of Jenny Hultin, a senior detective. Of course these detectives will all come from different parts of Sweden, they’ll have different skill sets, different ages, and temperaments.

They’ll function as a major crime unit handling the highest profile, the biggest, as well as the most important cases that have impact both within Sweden as well as internationally. Besides Stockholm and other key places in Sweden., these detectives will find themselves in places like Italy, Holland, Germany, Tallinn which is the capital of Estonia, New York, Kentucky, and other Scandinavian locations.

Hultin has the command and that means she’s the one that will have to go toe to toe with the ‘suits ‘ upstairs who want results and quickly, as well as the bean counters who have to worry about budgets and the cost of solving the cases.


Continue reading


You are a young woman named Anna. For nearly all of your life, just about 18 years, you have lived in the convent that you were brought to as an infant. You know very little to nothing about the world out there as your world is the convent. Long ago you decided to join the order and become a nun.

Now, as a novitiate, you are just a few weeks away from taking your vows. Ahead is a life of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

But before then, you have been called to the office of the Mother Superior. I’ll let the images speak for themselves because this is how the film opens.

So off Anna goes. A bus journey, and Anna sees for the 1st time life away from the convent. When she arrives at the address of Wanda Gruz, she is admitted to Wanda’s apartment.

Continue reading

Chinese Puzzle (2013)

The third film in French Director Cedric Klapisch’s trilogy is called Chinese Puzzle. The first was released in 2002 and was called (in English) The Spanish Apartment (in French – L’Auberge Espagnole). That film is described in IMDB as follows:

A strait-laced French student moves into an apartment in Barcelona with a cast of six other characters from all over Europe. Together, they speak the international language of love and friendship.

Klapisch followed up in 2005 with a film called Russian Dolls aka Les Poupées Russes. The characters were five years older, supposedly smarter, and they now lived in and around St. Petersburg, Russia.

Eight years later, in 2013, Klapisch directed this film, Chinese Puzzle. The main character Xavier is now at just about 40 years of age, and already has a successful best-selling novel to his credit.

In case you were wondering, I have not seen the first two in this trilogy, and I’ll state up front that this film holds up well enough as a stand alone viewing experience.

Here is the brief précis to get you acclimated about what the film is about:

A 40-year-old father’s life is complicated when the mother of his two children moves to New York. Since he can’t bear them growing up far away from him, he decides to move there as well.

Of course that is a simplification. As the lead character will tell us later in the film – life is complicated. How complicated might that be?

I’ll answer that by giving you a short list of the main characters:

Continue reading

Just a Sigh

Doug: Why did you follow me?
Alix: I didn’t follow you. I went and found you. It’s very different.

Just a Sigh is not your grandfather’s Strangers on A Train, yet all that matters begins on a train from Calais to Paris. I was scanning through Netflix and found this one and was intrigued by the Netflix description –

During a break between performances in Calais, French theater actress Alix meets an enigmatic English man on the train to Paris — and the two wind up having a passionate encounter that may change both their lives.

It was just two years ago, in November of 2012 that I took the train down to Paris from Amsterdam. I even arrived at the same station as the people in the film – Gare du Nord. Alix is an actress and as the film begins, I didn’t know where we were or who was who, and then I found that this film opened with a long single take of an actress preparing to go on stage for a performance of an Ibsen play. Flashes of Birdman danced in my head – but this idea only played through a few moments ending with the second or third final bow by the on stage players.

Alix had a talk with the stage manager – nobody had been paid in two weeks – such is the life of actress performing in a road company. She needed the money because she had to take the train down to Paris for an audition for a film the next morning.

But Alix, who is played by the enigmatic as well as beautiful Emmanuelle Devos, had other issues to deal with like a phone with dying battery and the phone charger left in the Calais apartment. Like a blocked credit card because no one in the show had been paid. And only a small handful of cash.

On the train, she makes contact with the brooding Gabriel Byrne. At this point we know nothing about him. All we now is that Alix and he have made eye contact, and only eye contact. As the train pulls into Gare du Nord, Byrne, still unnamed as a character asks Alix if she can direct him to a particular church – St. Clothilde. Alix knew it vaguely, and she was trying to give in instructions in English, not her first language, but clearly Doug’s (Byrne).

But Alix is interrupted by a knowing traveler who proceeds to give Doug a point by point set of instructions including directions of the Metro and which stations to change for another line. Alix slinks off, a bit embarrassed as well as unsure if approaching this complete stranger is something she ought to do.

Plus, she has to get to the audition.

Continue reading

Dicte: A Danish TV Series Now on Netflix

When we meet Dicte (short for Benedicte) she is 16 years old and in the throes of giving birth to a child which turns out to be a baby boy. Within two hours, the baby is taken from her.

Flash forward 24 years. Dicte is now a divorced Mom of a 17-year-old daughter. She has returned to her hometown of Aarhus, Denmark, and is working as a crime reporter for Dag Bladet which happens to be Norway’s 2nd largest tabloid newspaper, and there is a Swedish daily newspaper of the same name. Since we are set up in Aarhus in Denmark – it really doesn’t much matter as the office is quite small and could easily be a bureau office for either paper’s Danish edition.

Any way, we come to learn that Dicte Svendsen has returned to her hometown and is working as a reporter. Long ago, within hours of the birth, her baby was given up for adoption, she was disowned by her parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses for bearing an out-of-wedlock child, fathered by a man who was not a Jehovah’s Witness.

She’s very good at her job, and she has a nice house out-of-town, where she and her daughter live. Dicte has two girlfriends – Anne Skov Larsen who works as a midwife at a large Aarhus hospital, and Ida-Marie Svensson, who is married and struggling to become pregnant.

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

Lars Brygmann as Wagner

There’s a photographer at the newspaper who will play a major role in this series, as will Dicte’s daughter Rose, and a pair of police detectives – a man named Wagner, and a lady detective called Bendtsen. Season One consists of 10 Episodes that each run about 45 minutes. And these are 5 stories of two episodes each.

The crimes are drug smuggling, black market body organs, surrogate mothers who are prostitutes, crimes of passion, a kidnapping, and revenge etc.

In a single sentence Dicte can be described as a woman who tries to cope with being a full-time reporter, a part-time sleuth – all while trying to restart her life.

The stories are adaptions of the mystery thrillers written by Elsbeth Egholm, who is a very successful Danish author. Right now Dicte Season One is available on Netflix, and Season Two, which has just concluded its broadcast run in Europe on November 26th is scheduled to become available via Netflix in 2015.

Continue reading

Henning Mankell’s Wallender: Season Three – Now on Netflix

So a favorite detective series has ended. At the end he doesn’t walk towards a sunset over the Pacific Ocean, or stare into the bottom of a glass of whiskey. Rather it is a cloudy gray day with a smattering of snow falling on a beach in Ystad, Sweden. Now if you didn’t already know, Ystad is a real town and it is located on Sweden’s southern coast. It is the home base of our dour but brilliant police detective.

The detective’s name is Kurt Wallender, and he is a fictional character created by the author of numerous mystery novels – Henning Mankell. A number of Mankell’s stories have been made into both films or TV series. Four different actors have portrayed Wallender: Rolf Lassgard, Lennart Jahkel, Krister Henriksson, and Kenneth Branagh.

Kristen Henriksson as Wallender

Krister Henriksson as Wallender

Netflix has just posted Season Three of Henning Mankell’s Wallender. There are six episodes of 90 minutes each. Before this batch, I watched the 13 episode Second Season also on Netflix. I believe you can find Season One on DVD or Amazon Instant Video, or Hulu. I should specify that for this post,  I am talking about the ones with Swedish actor Krister Henriksson.

I found the Swedish noir style very impressive. The emphasis is on character and social issues like drugs, immigration, and corruption. This is not to say that there’s no action, or crimes of passion – there are some very violent crimes, but action is not in the forefront.

In this, the last season, the topics are:

Kidnapping & Revenge
A Missing Child
Exploitation of Immigrant Workers
A Cold War Death 20 Years after

Krister Henriksson portrays Kurt Wallender. Wallender is brilliant, and driven, but he distinctly lacks flash. He’s an older detective – late 50’s or early 60’s and he doesn’t take the best care of himself. He drinks too much, often lacks social graces, disagrees with his colleagues – meaning he can be a bit of a dick at times, and in Season Three, he’s kind of slovenly. In interviews Mankell has stated that a key element is that Wallender changes – like the rest us. We age and we change. And the important fact is that these changes are written into the stories.

Continue reading

The Missing: New Limited Series on Starz

Picture this. A British couple and their six-year-old son are on vacation in the north of France. Their car breaks down near the fictional town of Chalons du Bois. They book a room at a local hotel, the Hotel L’ Eden. It is 2006.

With time on their hands, the car repairs will take at least 24 hours if not more, they have to make a day of it. They visit a park, have ice cream, and then a fateful decision is made. The boy wants to close out the day with a swim in the town pool. The mother stays back at the hotel, and father and son have a terrific time at the pool. They change back into their clothes and Tony, the father, thinks they might have a bite at the local pub where everyone is engrossed in the televised France vs Brazil World Cup soccer match.

The bar is loud, crowded, and raucous. Tony has Oliver’s hand in his, as he attempts to thread his way through the crowd to order the food. In the tight quarters, some how he let’s go of the boy’s hand. As quick as it takes me to write this, Tony realizes he doesn’t have Ollie any more. He makes his way through the crowded bar, but there’s no sign of Oliver.

Ollie !!!!!!!!

Ollie !!!!!!!!

Nor is Ollie outside in the street. Tony is in a panic. He’s lost his son.

Flash forward eight years. Tony has returned to Chalons du Bois.

We quickly see that he has aged, and taken a distinct downhill turn. We also quickly surmise, that he has not recovered from the loss of his son, and is obsessed with finding him.

Continue reading

Peaky Blinders (New Series on Netflix)

Have you a fondness for period gangster films like me? It must be true that many people feel the same as I do. Certainly many of the best crime and gangster films are set up as period films. Amongst the greatest are The Godfather Parts I & II, Bonnie and Clyde, Millers Crossing, The Road to Perdition, Public Enemy, Lawless, The Gangs of New York, and Last Man Standing.

Produced by the BBC, The Weinstein Company has secured the US rights and have made the series available in the US via Netflix. The series came online on September 30th. Season One has six one hour episodes. Season Two will be rolled out on Netflix in November.

Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby, the middle son, of the Shelby family. The story begins in Birmingham in the UK, circa 1919. The Shelby’s run a street gang called the Peaky Blinders. It is a strange name, but once you realize that razor blades are sewn into their tweed newsboy hats, which were stylish for the period, the meaning becomes a lot clearer.

They hang out at the Garrison Pub at the far end of Garrison Lane. This is a street deep in the center of an industrial area. What with fires burning, and factories right there in the heart of the neighborhood; it seems a strange place to live. You could call it a mean street or you could call a vision of hell.

Aunt Polly: She ran the Shelby Operations while the men were off to Flanders Fields and WWI. She was in charge for five years. Helen McCrory has the role.

Aunt Polly: She ran the Shelby Operations while the men were off to Flanders Fields and WWI. She was in charge for five years. Helen McCrory has the role.

At this time (1919) those that hadn’t perished in WWI have returned home and for many life is a struggle. Tommy has nightmares of his war experiences, and has become addicted to smoking opium, Some have turned to communism because they feel that the government has not treated them well. Of course there were robber barons and captains of industry reaping grand rewards, but here in Garrison Lane, conditions were harsh – low wages, long hours, terrible working conditions, and a wage cut to boot. Indeed, these were hard times.


Continue reading