(It’s no seceret that I have become a bit of a television freak over the past 10 years. Nothing pleases me more than finding a hidden gem in the vast land of television. There is some utter shite out there too, but if you dig deep you can find some real treasures; some blood and guts treasures. I’ve said it before, but if you want real television, you need to go to Europe to find it. Lately, it has been the Nordic countries that have been pumping out the best television. The Swedish/Norwegian original The Bridge is fantastic, the Swedish Wallander is insanely good (although the BBC version kinda rules too), and The Killing kicks as both in Norway and the US. Just the week I stumbled across this French television program called Les Témoins on Netflix. If you want to find it on Netflix you need to search it under its English name Witnesses. Here’s a great review of the show by NEIL GENZLINGER of The NEW YORK TIMES. I’m only 2 episodes into it, but I wanted you all to get on board as soon as possible. The show looks and feels Nordic, and the story line is amazing. Looks like I may be having a binge-watch weekend. – FATS)
Turns out the French know how to peel an onion too.
If you like the format — the mystery grows more complex with each episode as connections and back stories are revealed — then try “Witnesses,” a tasty six-episode example from France that recently became available (with subtitles) on streaming platforms including iTunes, Netflix and Amazon.
There are strange goings-on in coastal Le Tréport in northwest France. Someone is digging up recently buried bodies and posing them in show houses, ghoulishly recreating a family scene.
Marie Dompnier plays the smart but skittish Sandra, a detective who investigates along with a sidekick, Justin (Jan Hammenecker). But her real partner ends up being Paul, a renowned cop who retired after the death of his wife and a debilitating car wreck.
Paul is expertly played by Thierry Lhermitte, known in France for comic roles but who here is a taciturn enigma. Paul is drawn into the case because personal effects of his appear at the crime scenes, which leads to the assumption that a criminal he put away is trying to send him a message.
It’s eerie with a hint of the supernatural — several witnesses report seeing a wolf at pivotal moments — and paced just right: Those layers are pulled back patiently, so viewers and actors have time to absorb them.
Ms. Dompnier has an especially rich role. Not only is there tension between her and Paul, who was one of her instructors when she was training to become a police officer, but she is also worried about her marriage.
The series also makes fine cinematic use of Le Tréport, especially in a scene shot on the Funiculaire, a railway that takes riders from the town upward through a tunnel and to the overlooking cliffs. It is by all accounts a delightful tourist excursion, but after watching this show you may board it with a wee bit of trepidation.