Monday, 21 May 2012
MISSING INSPECTOR MONTALBANO
I happened upon the Inspector Montalbano series quite by accident and I'm so glad I did because it's the best thing I've seen on TV for ages.
I confess that the weekly dose of Sicilian sunshine was very uplifting during the grey and dreary Spring English weather with the prospect of yet another summer wash out on the horizon minus the handful of scorching days that are so rare this side of Europe.
As much as the lush scenery, clear skies, yellow sunshine, golden sands, and Italian architecture was an attraction so too was the melodic Italian language that I love to hear, but struggle to understand, and the likeable characters despite their gentle machismo and sexism.
Montalbano, played by Luca Zingaretti, is the sort of detective you want to deal with in real life should you fall under suspicion but you wouldn't want him as a boyfriend given the way he treats his girlfriend Livia. He once left her sitting in the car for two hours because he forgot she was there, and he even stole away back home from a weekend trip leaving her alone after failing to tell her they were only there because he was investigating something.
He is fair, perceptive and just in his dealings. He doesn't always get his man - or woman - and sometimes just walks away, or deals out instant penalties after making a moral judgment about whether something is right or wrong outside of the confines of law.
His side kick Mimi Augello played by Cesare Bocci always has women troubles and despite his sexism and belief that all women will fall for his charm, I still like him because his weakness for women is his Archilles Heel, his dealings with them often leaves him with egg on his face, and he always ends up going home to his long suffering fiance Bella - the sort of Italian woman you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of.
Most people can't help but be drawn to Caterella, the well meaning, incompetent, comic relief who appears in a fluster all of the time and anxious to impress the Inspector.
He appears to be mentally challenged but everyone in this series has their strong points and for Caterella - the jester - it is his expertise in computers and his enthusiasm that makes him such a valuable, if somewhat annoying, member of the team.
I like the fact that Montalbano uses his brain and clues in the old fashioned way to solve the crime rather than the polished and clinical approach of something like CSI where close up shots of science in action as DNA, or some other vital piece of evidence is magnified under a microscope to indicate who dunnit .
Fazio, the God fearing younger member of the team and moral guide, is loyal, honest and hardworking and trusts his boss's judgement even when he strays over the line of legality.
I have no idea when or if Inspector Montalbano will return to British screens with BBC Four but until then I do at least have a a whole collection of books to discover.
Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about my own trip to an Italian seaside town this year when I hope to visit my Italian mother's family in Cecina Mare, Tuscany, where the sea is just as clear as Montalbano's fictional town of Vigata, the sun shines as brightly, and the community including my relatives and ancestors are as old as the town itself.
Watching the series took me a little closer to my favourite place every week and now it's ended, Saturday nights are not quite the same.