Inspector de Luca
So Inspector de Luca as previewed in my quote from The Independent article:
“Summary of European Dramas” is set in Italy during the time that Mussolini was in power, circa 1930’s. At one point helpfully 1938 is flashed up as a date. I noticed references to North and South by said Inspector to his stereotypical sidekick, which rang a bell way back in my head over Italy being split into North and South and some complicated history. I will have to look it up.
Being a fascist state is all very interesting and refreshing and possibly we are meant to be vicariously thrilled at this setting and indeed shocked at the repetitive half mast Nazi style salutes and an interesting, to me anyway, ban on handshakes as being unhygienic. There is talk of The Empire which is news to me. (Wikipedia beckons)
In a nice touch of the dramatic device of the mentioned and or famous persona much like Columbo’s wife that we never see: we are tantalised with awed utterances of the imminent arrival of Il Dulce (The Duke) Mussolini himself. But of course, as i expected, we do not see him up close or at all until the end of the episode where we are finally offered the sight of Mussolini semi-jogging. Before it was invented. He is in an almost amusing white bathrobe ensemble with his trotting entourage in tow at the beach.
I found it slightly dramatically disappointing in terms of a forced and far too quick and corrective device: that by the end of just one episode, Inspector de Luca had changed sides and was now (albeit secretly) anti-fascist. Well he just had to be, didn’t he. Boring.
At the beginning of the episode although he is obviously signposted as slightly maverick just for wanting to concentrate on Detective work rather than political machinations (yes-that stereotypical trope) Inspector de Luca was threatening all and sundry suspects with reporting them as anti-fascists.
Then Lo and behold, on the strength of meeting a hugely handsome journalist with a shocking penchant for handshakes and the Truth of The Case, Inspector de Luca sees the light. The anti-fascist light so to speak. Yawn. It would have been far more interesting to leave him be in historical affinity with the cause for a while at least. But then that just wouldn’t do.
Whilst being vaguely reminiscent, like a pre-prologue in time to Inspector Montalbano as with echoes of Il Dulce looking like a Marlon Brando style pre-Godfather on the beach: Inspector de Luca is incredibly stylish. The man himself and everything therein. Boy, was the 30’s stylish. Even the palm trees and the giant ferns stuffed in gigantic blue and white pots and the twin wooden Egyptian style dogs outside the villa are stylish.
The least stylish thing for me was the back view of the tailored and belted in jackets. However it is strange and unusual to see with our 21st Century eyes the amazing abundance of white. White clothes, white shorts and oh, the white suits! Just about everybody who is anybody wears a white suit. (except Inspector de Luca who doesn’t succumb)
The rich folk and the lounging women especially are sharper than needles in their fabulous sunglasses and halter necks and shorts. The sun shines down brightly on them whilst they sip, actually I’m not sure what they’re sipping, let’s call it Champagne. They all dance languorously and with joy to what seems like incredibly slow music and unremarkable singing.
It seems OK to be gay if you’re a rich lady and friend (or maybe they were just touchy feely) but not if you’re poor and a man. Then you are at risk of being sent to “The Camp”.
Nb. Social morés of personal space may well have been different then, as at one point i thought Inspector de Luca and the handsome journalist were going to kiss, their faces were so close to one another when they were talking.
Inspector de Luca himself, apart from his rather unforgivable tailored waisted jacket at the back, is incredibly stylish too. Mostly he wears fabulous suits and rocks a trilby hat with consummate ease. He has startling and light blue eyes. I believe this means he may come from the North.
Inspector de Luca is devilishly handsome too. His style is familiar to us from he 1920’s-40’s with an enjoyable Raymond Chandler Detective air. Think Humphrey Bogart in The Deep Sleep.
There is the amusing sight which confounds our modern day expectation of speed and cars and masculine/macho tropes of car chases. Since instead Inspector de Luca lops a long leg over his trusty bike wherever he goes and is amusingly chased down by a car. When on his bike. Surely as a visual gag of sorts.
The action, the mystery, the solving thereof are all rather pedestrian and inconsequential to all so far described for me.
The characters are like any others really except that they almost appear caricatured in some sort of time laden ugliness and overall the effect is of a drama that is cold. The women are cold and hard whilst some
prerequisite shagging and sexiness is shoehorned in. Is Inspector de Luca going to necessarily bonk every astoundingly beautiful woman and or suspect who sidles up along i wonder? Much like Montalbano. Probably.
Me, i never saw the relevance to the plot really of such shenanigans. Except for when i suppose said lady is confounding Inspector de Luca’s Detective skills.
I did find myself affixed in gaze and fascination at the kitchen table and the tiny coffee maker, the bowl of sugar, the giant milk bottle flagon of wine and the decidedly scrumptious looking salami that Inspector de Luca’s live in side-kick was slowly slicing. Then tearing off lumps of bread. That salami was calling to me from the metaphorical 1930’s. Count me in.
It will do until hopefully, Hostages (BBC4) comes along.
Oh yes and everybody smokes. At all times of the day or night. (even-shockingly at the dinner table) Just about the only time the rakishly handsome Inspector de Luca doesn’t smoke is when he is on his bike.
People smoke because they enjoy it. Not to signify deep trauma and despair, nihilism and existential angst. Nope. The characters in Inspector de Luca smoke like they mean it, not like they’re holding some alien object of long ago and desultorily puffing smoke out of the corner of their mouths, trying desperately not to inhale. Since that actor or actress sensibly gave up smoking about a millennia ago. I thought i should put that last bit in just in case i was making smoking sound glorious and fun.
Since all this smoking, like Inspector de Luca and the laughing lounging women do, is difficult stuff to watch if you’re struggling with the dastardly demon nicotine. Just like in the 1940’s and Inspector de Luca’s latter day look-alike Clark Gable and Co, smoking just looks so damn cool.
Of course Inspector de Luca may have been threatening suspects with reporting them as anti-fascists as his tactic and he was secretly subversive all along. Maybe his own questioning helped him along, i forgot about that.