by Geoffrey Churchman

Writing novels is a very popular pastime in France, and reading them is too, judging from the promotion of them and the attention paid the subject, which rather contrasts with NZ.

The scenario of “Henri Pick” is inventive if somewhat implausible: in a Breton town named Crozon (a real place) there is a small “Bibliothèque des livres refusés” (library of refused books) which specialises in collecting and lending manuscripts which authors have not found publishers for. Some of the titles make that no surprise. A visiting Paris editor gets told about it by her boyfriend and while browsing through what’s on the shelves comes upon one which gets her attention. She manages to get her Paris employer to publish it and it becomes a success.

On a TV book programme, the host is disbelieving that such a masterpiece could have been written, as is claimed, by an operator of a pizzeria and sets out to find who the real author is. Detective style, he tracks down and talks to various characters around the town, and in Paris, and eventually works out who it is.

Both the alleged deceased author and the literary critic-now-detective are presented as idiosyncratic and there are elements of comedy — such as literary admirers showing up to the pizzeria, now a creperie, wanting to order a pizza and see the author’s office — romance and perhaps the nature of being a novelist in France. 

Probably the biggest attraction for audiences here, however, are the settings in rugged coastal Bretagne.

The Mystery of Henri Pick (100 minutes) is screening at the Shoreline.