For a Fistful of Fries (Poulet Frites)            French Film Festival

For anyone not familiar with work of directors Jean Libon and Yves Hinant (and by anyone I include myself) there might be an element of confusion here as to whether this is documentary or reconstruction. Whichever, though, it makes for intriguing viewing.

The film follows the investigation of the killing of a prostitute in Brussels by a murder squad led by Commissioner Jean-Michel Lemoine and investigating judge Anne Gruwez. Number one suspect is the drug addicted neighbour – and sometime boyfriend – Alain Martens, a butcher to trade, who has spent his adult life in and out of prison.

Alain has no alibi and indeed has no recollection of how he spent the night in question, or even where he was. His responses to police questioning are along the lines of “if you say so” which are of little help to the police, but of even less help to himself. Held in custody and repeatedly questioned, things are looking black for him. But a combination of diligent police work, forensics, the fries of the title and a lucky break gradually bring alternative suspects into the frame.

There is little in the way of high drama here, rather the focus is on the drudge work that goes into investigations such as this that gradually uncover evidence that could lead to a conviction. Long hours and hard work are the order of the day along with an ability to communicate with those who knew the victim and either unwittingly or unwillingly, might have something to say that could bring the hunt for the killer to a successful conclusion.

Shot in black and white that appropriately appears mostly as shades of gray, it successfully paints a picture of the murky depths that underlie any city.

Jim Welsh

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