BLACK SPOT – a series created by Mathieu Missoffe
In Villefranche, a (fictional) isolated town near the German border in northeastern France, cellphone reception is terrible, and GPS signals are unreliable. It is implied that iron ore deposits in the surrounding hills are responsible. A single remaining public phone booth is aggressively defended by the locals. Villefranche is an unassuming little town, built around a sawmill that is going out of business. It is a great place to hide.
Franck Siriani (Laurent Capelluto), a prosecutor who has fallen out of favour with his superiors, arrives in town hoping to put his career back on track by figuring out why Villefranche has a murder rate six times the national average. (Siriani’s calculations are a bit off. In 2016, the homicide rate in France was 1.4 per 100,000, so the murder rate in Villefranche is greater by a much larger factor than six.) Siriani is allergic to nearly everything, and on arrival nearly meets his end after being stung by a bee. He is reluctantly assisted in his investigations by Sheriff Laurène Weiss (Suliane Brahim), who, years ago, vanished into the woods that surround the town, emerging several days later with complete amnesia about the incident and missing two fingers.
Sheriff Weiss has a deputy nicknamed Teddy Bear (Hubert Delattre), and is (covertly) romantically involved with Mayor Steiner (Samuel Jouy). The Mayor is married and his family owns the sawmill that is closing and throwing many of the townspeople out of work. Six months previously (on the 4th of December) Mayor Steiner’s daughter Marion (Sarah-Megan Allouch) mysteriously vanished. Marion was best friends with Cora (Camille Aguilar), the Sheriff’s daughter. Cora is an environmental activist, and is involved in protests against the closing of the sawmill.
An underground environmentalist group is hiding in the area, investigating the Steiner family’s business activities. The leader of the group plants a camera in Cora’s bedroom, and it works well, so local wireless networks do not seem to be impacted by whatever is affecting GPS and cell phone signals.
The following three observations may (or may not) be of symbolic significance:
—- Two crows (or possibly ravens) habitually perch outside the police station. Another pair casually perch on the arms of a scarecrow (with good reason, it turns out). Later in Season One, a murder of crows comes to the aid of one of the major characters. (In Celtic myth, carrion-eating blackbirds were seen as a bridge between the living and the dead, able to communicate with both.)
—- Sabine’s bar has a 1960s Washington State license plate on the wall. BLACK SPOT was filmed in Vosges, France, which is on roughly the same latitude as Seattle.
—- December 4th (the date of Marion’s disappearance) is also the anniversary of the signing of the treaty (in 1259) in which Henry III renounced his claims to French-controlled territory on continental Europe in exchange for withdrawal of French support for English rebels.
Leïla Barami (Naidra Ayadi) is the town doctor and, while none of her actions are pivotal to the plot, if there is one character (other than the Sheriff) that you will remember from this show and look for in future episodes, she’s the one. There are hints that mystic forces are at work in the hills and swamps, and the ending of the first season will definitely surprise you. Season Two of BLACK SPOT (originally titled Zone Blanche) will be on Netflix on 14 June.
Hubert Delattre (Nounours) will be Eric in FURIE, a film, based on real-life events, about a couple (Adama Niane and Stéphane Caillard), who rent their house for the summer to a couple who were recently evicted from their home, and then go on a summer holiday. When they return, they find that both the locks and the name on the mailbox have been changed, and that the new occupants of the house now claim it is theirs. Directed by Olivier Abbou, FURIE began filming in and around Lille, France at the end of May. There is no word yet on a release date.
Delattre is also Frère Alice in Episodes three and four of THE FROZEN DEAD, a mystery set in a small town in the French Pyrenees. All six episodes can be streamed on Netflix.
Samuel Jouy (Mayor Steiner) has an as yet unspecified role in the buddy comedy LE LION, a film about Romain Martin (Philippe Katerine), a psychologist whose patient (Leo Milan, played by Danny Boone), claims to be an international spy, code-named The Lion. Leo predicts the kidnapping of Romain’s fiancée Louise, and when she is actually abducted, Romain realizes that Leo is the only one with the skills to save her. The two men begin a frantic chase across Paris to rescue Louise and (incidentally) to protect France’s central bank from being robbed. LE LION is currently filming in Paris, and is scheduled to be released in France on 5 February 2020.