26 August, 2012

Inspector Montalbano

Sun, food, women, and murder; four words that best describe the Italian detective series Inspector Montalbano based on the books by Andrea Camilleri. Primarily set in picturesque Sicily, the series takes a wickedly fun and sinister approach as Inspector Montalbano, played by Luca Zingaretti, and his team go about solving crimes in the region.  

Having viewed two episodes I found Inspector Montalbano to be exceptionally well crafted because it tackles humor, death, and mystery in just the right balance. The series in general can be a bit unnerving at times, in a positive manner, because it combines sporadic moments of comedy with that of misery, changing the mood from light to dark, and back again, instantly at the flip of a coin.  

Excursion to Tindari consists of the inspector looking at a murder, a missing elderly couple, and a case of adultery amidst politics and mafia intrusions. What struck me most about this episode was the unconventional end, something that brings forth the extreme cunningness of the Inspector.

The Artist's Touch is a murder mystery with a storyline consisting of deductions that mirror Sherlock Holmes at times. Once again, as in the previous episode, there is always a lingering shadow of the "important" things in life; beautiful women and food, both of which usually bring about the humorous side of Inspector Montalbano. 

It's easy to be carried away and get comfortable with the number of subplots while watching Inspector Montalbano. After only a little while the transition into reading the subtitles became natural, but still, a number of times I was so engrossed in the episodes, admiring and enjoying the original language (Italian), that I would skip reading the subtitles having to actually rewind, in-order to understand what was being said.

While the title character of the series portrays a certain charisma and charm and is without doubt the "hero", it has to be the supporting cast and their mannerisms that truly make it special. Be it the regulars, with a special mention of Catarella, or the episodic cast, each member is so well developed that they form an integral part of the series with Inspector Montalbano serving as a head keeping everything and everyone under control. It is also this supporting cast that is primarily responsible for the subtle, almost Peter Seller-esq comedy that underlines the series throughout. The influence of Italian culture is abundant with the food and sun-kissed locations playing a prominent role along with a general flirting that takes place between a number of characters.

Inspector Montalbano brings about certain freshness amongst the barrage of detective series that are produced in the west. Making the most of its location, the series keeps itself unique by having strong characters that can't help but make the audience love them and their eccentricities.       

Inspector Montalbano is a series not to be missed, especially if you like your dinner served by the seaside with a hint of anguish, a dash of whimsy, and a sprinkle of personalities to bring about an explosion of taste. 

DVD Information:
Title - Inspector Montalbano Collection Two
Episodes - Excursion to Tindari, The Artist's Touch, The Sense of Touch, Montalbano's Croquettes, The Scent of the Night, The Goldfinch and the Cat.
Release Date - 3rd September 2012
Running Time - 611 minutes approx. on 3 discs
Certificate - 15
Language - Italian with English Subtitles
Release - Acorn Media UK