Louis Jouvet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Inspector Antoine in Quai des Orfèvres.
The veteran French actor Louis Jouvet does not enter the film until about halfway through. That first half focuses on the difficult relationship between an incredibly flirtatious singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) and her jealous husband Maurice (Bernard Blier). We see the two going back and forth as Maurice constantly threatens the men Jenny is flirting with them though she is completely devoted to him. Complications ensue though when one of the men, a sleazy photographer, turns up dead. This is made more complex by the married couple having separately visited the murdered man's house, and made even more complicated by Jenny's photographer friend Dora (Simone Renant), with an obvious crush on her, also visiting the crime scene. This leads Inspector Antoine to come in to attempt clear everything up despite the three doing their best to cover their tracks. Jouvet appears and this is great example of an old pro just going to town with some great material. That is to say Jouvet wastes no time in stealing the show.
Jouvet is exceptional as he sets up his whole character in his first scene as Antoine is informed of the crime. Antoine takes a moment to check on his adopted son before leaving. Jouvet's brilliant in just this slight interaction we are given with his son throughout these scenes as he grants such a rich history of the inspector with his son. Jouvet captures this sense of haplessness with his son, as well as this attempt at any sort of discipline in these interactions as he talks about his son's trouble with geography. Jouvet shows this perfect sort of appreciation if what he has, even though he also shows the inspector being perhaps slightly out of his element in this regard. Beneath all of it is such this sweet warmth that Jouvet exudes in almost this indirect way. This is the major personal element we are given on the inspector and Antoine makes the most of it. He humanizes the inspector far past the confines of the case or the confines of this supporting role. Jouvet makes this whole aspect of his character so very endearing while adding an extra layer to his character.
Of course the primary role of the Inspector is to solve the case and in this way Jouvet is again brilliant. Jouvet here reminded of the very best turns of this nature like say Morgan Freeman in Seven, Jouvet is just fascinating to watch as he works the case. The way Jouvet maneuvers every scene he is in is something in itself. I just love the physical presence of his work here as he dominates by almost being exactly where he shouldn't be. I have particular affection for Jouvet's stone face whenever Antoine appears from behind a doorway as though he's Frankenstein's monster. As the Inspector works the case though we are also granted a bit of his philosophy towards his profession. Jouvet delivers this certain acerbic tone even rather humorous as he ponders about the long list of costs to solve the murder for basically who was seen as an undesirable by most. What's best though is the way Jouvet shows that Antoine uses it to manipulate the situation, as Jouvet excels in his reactions in these moments as though he's watching to see guilt by supporting his own cynicism.
Jouvet is so good as he illustrates the technique of the Inspector in every scene as he goes about interrogating each of the principals to get to the bottom of the murder. Jouvet brings this elegance to his method as he shows the Inspector always switching things up so carefully. Jouvet often delivers a comedic moment, and plays it as though Antoine is speaking to a innocent person to get them to open up a bit more. Jouvet though makes it almost a dance of sorts the way he so seems to be playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers. Jouvet's delivery and reactions are truly remarkable in the way they do establish the incisiveness of Antoine. Jouvet portrays that Antoine does need to figure things out himself, but in front of the suspects he is always the one in charge. As he'll make a joke then suddenly switch to speaking of the severity of crimes actually, and Jouvet makes his intensity particularly effective by the way he springs it on the suspects as well as we the viewers. His work is excellent in the way he actually becomes a more than a little menacing by realizing this technique so effortlessly. I find Jouvet outdoes any Poirot of any kind in the final scenes of the film as Antoine fixes everything. Jouvet again tears through the scenes making it absolutely convincing that Antoine will get his man/woman in the end. Jouvet though goes even further to offer this touch of a philosophy though presenting again just the right hint of warmth. Jouvet's absolutely charming, in his own unusual way of course, as he makes final interrogation though this time offering such a genuine sympathy as he finally gets the truth. This is an amazing performance by Louis Jouvet as he steals the film wholesale though with such ease and grace as his atypical Inspector Antoine.
Next Year: 1973 Lead