DEAR DETECTIVE: Outer Circle 1.

The audience cheered when the police inspector in "Dear Detective" arrived at the scene of the crime.

Here is adetective in the geat movie tradition - intuitive, audacious, authoritative, humorous, slightly eccentric, juggling a complicted life.

From the way she snapped off her earings and bent over the cadaver, you knew she would soon solve the case.

The heroine of this French mystery-comedy is not your television policewoman temporarily exchanging her gold lame jumpsuit for a uniform. Annie Girardot plays a delightful and convincing middle-aged woman who has risen in her occupation through talent and dedication, while leading a normal personal life, with all its problems and pleasures.

Philippe de Broca's charming film inter-weaves two stories involving this heroine - the professional and the personal, the crime story and the romance.

They go perfectly together, because the romantic conflict is her beau's distaste for the very attributes that make her successful on the job.

Not that this is a female-career conflict deal with a successful woman having to face the restrictions of a chauvinst male. Pas de tout. The pig here, to the extent that there is one, is the police officer who orders people around, ignores all the traffic rules and thrives on excitement. All great literary detectives have their scholarly yearnings, and this one has a weakness for a professor of Greek who loves good tea and birds and peace and quiet.

The frenetic Gorardot and the plodding Philippe Noiret make a marvelous couple. "Dear Antoine," she writes after he unwittingly follows her into a police-demonstrator confrontation and is arrested while holding her ice-cream cone, "This afternoon we both cried a lot, and I like to think it wasn't just the tear gas." Even when she is trying to apologize for all unwanted adventure she has brought into his life, she can't help barking "Police" to scare eveyone else away before she begins the business of soothing him.

His is the way of comfort and reason, of regular meals and talking things out. It doesn't stand a chance. Involved in a hilarious version of the obligatory car-chase sequence, he resists shifting out of first. But it is she who will set the pace in their relationship.

Whoever heard of a great detective slowing down to follow the lead of a comfy homebody?