Sunday, April 18, 2010

#218: Le Cercle Rouge

(1970, Jean-Pierre Melville)

The last Melville Criterion film I haven't seen (I saw Le Samurai years ago, and until I watch it again to compare is still my favorite), Le Cercle Rouge is also the most widely praised of all the director's films. It's easy to see why, as the film is directed and written with the kind of confidence filmmakers only have after decades of cinema under their belt. Compare a movie like this to, say, North by Northwest, or Kagemusha, and then compare it to a movie like Magnolia or Breathless. Like Le Cercle Rouge, all four of those films are five star classics, but the latter two have a swagger in place of the quiet confidence that is the common thread through films made in the latter half of a master's career. It's the difference between an aging samurai and a young cowboy.

There are countless classic moments in this film, from the train escape at the beginning to the jewel heist centerpiece. But the movie's best element remains Melville, as his work with the camera is a joy to watch. With this movie, Melville finished up a run which is unparalleled by 99% of filmmakers: from 1966 to 1970, he made Le Deuxieme Souffle, Army of Shadows, Le Samurai, and Le Cercle Rouge. So, yeah. Not too shabby.

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