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Our review of Blood of the Vine: Season 2, published June 14th, 2013, is also available.
"Full-bodied, yet light thrillers!"
Lebel: You like wine?
Barbaroux: No. But I need your help. I'm working on a strange case.
Benjamin Lebel (Pierre Arditi, Private Fears In Public Places) is a well-respected enologist, and authors one of France's leading wine guides. His work (largely conducted from his own Bordeaux based laboratory) keeps him very busy, and he's experiencing extreme deadline pressure when he receives a call from Commander Barbaroux, of the local Crime Squad, who requests a meeting in Lebel's lab as soon as possible.
"Could you taste this?" he asks, handing Lebel an evidence container filled with wine.
"Your lab's on strike?"
"They can't name the estate or the year," Barbaroux replies. "I heard you were an expert."
There's been a murder, you see. The victim was an elderly man, smothered to death and left lying near an arranged display of twelve wine glasses, all empty but for one, full of the vintage Pomerol just sampled by Lebel. There are apparently no other clues.
So begins the first episode ofBlood of the Vine: Season 1.
The second episode involves a clan of "Cognac royalty," whose in-fighting for control of the family business inevitably leads to murder.
Next up: Lebel's daughter Margaux (Rachel Arditi) becomes engaged to the new estate director at Chateau Barfleur, home to a network of profitable vineyards. The couple's happiness is tragically cut short when a traffic accident results in the death of Margaux's fiancee, and Lebel suspects that the "accident" was actually…murder.
The fourth and final tale concerns one of Lebel's former assistants, who, after being attacked in his cellar, wakes to find that his latest Pessac stocks have been contaminated. But is the poisoning deliberate? Well, we all know what poisoning can lead to, hmmm?
This two-disc set is sure to inspire a sense of Deja vu, not only for fans of the novels (by Jean Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen) from which the series is adapted, but also for devotees of the garden variety network television mystery shows that infested American airwaves, roughly from the 1970s through the '90s. But for the funny accents, subtitles, and the provincial architecture, one can easily be forgiven for expecting the likes of Columbo, Jessica Fletcher, or McMillan and Wife to drop in any moment and bust these cases wide open.
In common with those bygone favorites, Blood On The Vine keeps its violence to a minimum, its sexuality to mere suggestion, and fills gaps between plot developments with ham-fisted humor. Mostly though, the series succeeds on the mature charm of Arditi, who projects a strong sense of intelligence, cynical wit, and handsome virility belying the fact he's pushing seventy.
MHz Networks does a fine job delivering the picture and sound, but aside from English subtitles, this set is no-frills all the way.
About those subtitles: be prepared for a lot of them! Like the recent Maigret series (another French television import from the same distributor), this one requires quite a bit of reading (for those of us who don't Parlez-vous Francais) to keep up.
At approximately ninety minutes apiece, I found these episodes a bit longish, but otherwise pleasant enough—if somewhat interchangeable, and ultimately forgettable. Then again, the TV "mystery movie" genre has never really given me all that much of a buzz. However, if you're a connoisseur of this particular formula, then by all means…bottoms up!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MHz Networks
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