Bob, a old gangster and gambler is almost broke, so he decides in spite of the warnings of a friend, a high official from the police, to rob a gambling casino in Dauville. Everything is ... See full summary »
Gustave Minda, better known as Gu, a dangerous gangster, escapes from jail. He goes to Paris to join Manouche and other friends, and get involved in a gangland killing. Before leaving the ... See full summary »
Bob, a old gangster and gambler is almost broke, so he decides in spite of the warnings of a friend, a high official from the police, to rob a gambling casino in Dauville. Everything is planed exactly, but the police is informed about the planned coup. Meanwhile in the Casino Bob starts to gamble. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
It's probably common practice to brush aside films that were once made before a country really had a 'boom' in terms of coming up with their own film form or film movement. Bob the Gambler was made in the mid 1950s, a few years before Goddard amongst a few others devised the French New Wave and made it popular with films like The 400 Blows and Goddard's own Breathless. You can take numerous examples from down the decades: Does any one remember or still watch any German films before their Expressionism movement in the 1920s? What about Italian film before the 1940s or Danish films before the Dogme '95 movement? This is where Bob the Gambler is living proof that it hasn't aged that badly as we (or at least I'm) still stumbling across pre-film movement films and enjoying them for what they are.
It's not just Bob the Gambler that is an example of French film and how pre-new wave French film has survived; a lot of the Lumière brothers films should be the first point of call for someone wondering where film and cinema came from; the answer is of course the French. Bob the Gambler as a film is just simply fascinating its look, its use of locations and its actual narrative just ooze class. Melville uses a very clever technique to introduce not just the characters and the setting but also the film as a whole without even touching on the story. This is done through the opening thirty or so minutes which just consists of character interaction as we discover what types of people these characters are and any other necessary information about pasts or whatever is delivered to us through dialogue. We discover a bit about Bob and his relation to the police as well as a bit on the shady past of the character of Paolo who will contribute to the plot later on since he works at the casino.
But the film also consists of both outdoor and indoor scenes that are fascinating to watch. The indoor scenes for reasons just said and the outdoor scenes as more of a historical lesson if anything. This is post war Paris captured on film with cars and buildings acting as brilliant, timeless and irreplaceable mise-en-scene. And yet, Bob the Gambler has enough essence of noir, crime and innovation to keep it worth watching. There's a shot of a nipple in the film that surely would've had censors doing somersaults, several suggestions that sex has happened is implied by way of the scenes ending and there's even room for a shot from the backseat of a travelling car as the two occupants drive to their destination and maybe share a glance. Two things: 1. Would a Hollywood film from the time include such a scene or just get them there without the journey and 2. The shot is eerily similar to that of the one in Goddard's 1960 film Breathless where Michael is describing what he likes about the girl sitting next to him in list form. If Melville had been a bit bolder and included some jump cuts, the New Wave would've started there and then no question.
There is further proof that the film has aged well and that the director was thinking big at the time in the script. My personal favourite scene is when they're going over the heist plan and one of the robbers stands to attention as non diegetic music stars up before Bob yells at him to sit back down and then the music immediately stops. Melville toys with us once again and has fun with the soundtrack simultaneously whilst probably having a stab at Hollywood for the time. That said, the script is full of witty putdown and lines that don't advance the story but are truly 'real'; very akin to today's Hollywood films after Tarantino gave everybody permission to do so.
Bob the Gambler is a number of things and utilises a number of conventions that whilst watching in today's world, seem very familiar to us thanks to recent films but this was France, mid 1950s and even more fascinating: pre-French New Wave. If ever there was a film to watch in order to see what French film was like 'pre-movement', then this is it. Not one to be brushed aside.
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