Bob le Flambeur (1956) Poster

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Another Heist Movie? Not So Fast...
bigverybadtom24 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The movie starts slowly but picks up later. The title character is an ex-con gambler living in a swank apartment and driving a fancy convertible. Having served time for a bank robbery, he has gone straight, and even shows disdain for a pimp who begs him for help. His life consists of going to various gambling establishments where he sometimes wins fortunes and other times loses them. He picks up a supposedly innocent woman off the streets and sets her up with a friend of his, and after losing too much money in a gambling round, he plots to rob a casino, and even gathers up a team of criminals to help him and gets information from unwilling people.

Except things go wrong. The pimp is told by the police to come up with information for them or face prosecution, and a croupier at the casino is blackmailed into helping...and then his wife learns of this. Will all the planning come to naught? A dark film noir, but not overdone in terms of violence or twists and turns. And the ending is a surprise, but not a hokey one.
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Melville and the Gangster Film
gavin694212 January 2016
Bob, a middle-aged gambler and ex-con living in the Montmartre district of Paris, experiences a run of bad luck that leaves him nearly broke. Bob is a gentleman with scruples, well liked in the demi-monde community. He has unsuccessfully tried to rob a bank in the past, and has spent time in prison.

Vincent Canby, writing in 1981, noted "Melville's affection for American gangster movies may have never been as engagingly and wittily demonstrated as in Bob le Flambeur, which was only the director's fourth film, made before he had access to the bigger budgets and the bigger stars of his later pictures." "Bob le flambeur" influenced the two versions of the American film Ocean's Eleven (1960 and 2001) as well as Paul Thomas Anderson's "Hard Eight", and was remade by Neil Jordan as "The Good Thief" in 2002. What I love about this is how the genre comes full circle. With the western, it had to go to Italy before it come back and be reborn in the United States. Apparently for the gangster film, it had to detour through France.

Seemingly, American studios could not be inspired by John Ford or William Wellman until their work was properly recognized by some European counterparts in the 1950s and 1960s. But that is not surprising.
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Above All Else, A Fascinating Character Piece
Ore-Sama28 January 2015
Absent of the stylization of "Le Samurai" and not as gritty or violent as crime thrillers of the 60's, "Bob the Gambler", from Jean Pier Melville, is none the less an important film historically for it's influence on the crime genre, heist films specifically. However, how does it hold up as a film?

Certainly there is sufficient build up to the heist. We see every step of the planning, with plenty of twists and turns leading up to it, and once things get started, the suspense is certainly there, though without giving anything away, the suspense doesn't come the way one would expect it to, but the tension is definitely there. There is violence, though not a whole lot, and it's obscured, so don't expect much in the way of high octane gun action.

While the sections of the film dealing with the heist itself, the planning, build up and execution would all be enough to make this a fine film, what elevates it even more is the characterization. Bob is a a retired criminal, who all ready served twenty years in prison. Now friends with a cop and living seemingly straight, he's none the less prone to gambling and losing. He takes a father like role to Paulo, who aspires to be like him, and takes a liking to a young woman, Anne. He's seemingly a good person, willing to help others whenever he can. However, when he loses most of his fortune on a foolish bet, he gets a team together for a grand scale heist. This film is about more than a heist, it's about a flawed man whose vices will ensure he is never completely on the straight and narrow. Paulo also falls prey to his desire to win over and impress Anne, at any cost. The highlight of the film for me is the characters, fully realized and done justice by fantastic performances from everyone involved. I won't spoil the ending, but it's one of those endings that makes you completely rethink your earlier perceptions.

Cinematography, while not as amazing as "Le Samurai", is still something to appreciate, with clear influences from American crime and noir films.

SHould be approached as more of a crime drama than a full out, action packed heist film. Definitely recommended.
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Not your typical Melville
Ju Tau28 October 2014
Bob le flambeur is another version of the classic "one-last-heist" type of crime movies. While plotwise it lacks the finesse of the thematically similar Rififi (1955), it certainly still has its own qualities.

Released in 1956, Bob marks Melvilles entry to the crime genre but is radically different to his later gangster films in many ways. Instead of taking the highly-stylized minimalist approach which defines most of those movies, Bob is an entertaining, quite playful and even slightly comedic work.

Especially remarkable are the cinematography and the main characters which embody an incredible amount of coolness.
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One for Pseuds Corner
sedleyandrus13 June 2014
The generally positive reviews for this film baffle me. Some movies wear well with age. This one, made nearly sixty years ago, hobbles along on crutches. It is billed as 'a crime thriller' and 'gangster movie' but NOTHING HAPPENS! Jean-Pierre Melville had no experience of directing a movie before he put this together and, even with the help (or perhaps because) of rewrites from Jean Cocteau, the action remains comatose, the narrative entirely linear. It looks like the work of an amateur, though admittedly Paris in 1956 is shot atmospherically. The cigarette count is as high as the body count is low. What gangster or flambeur (the French argot for 'gambler') was ever called 'Bob'? Bob is a name you give your pet Labrador - it's a light comedy name. This particular entirely uncharismatic Bob wanders around from one gambling den to another in a one-expression performance. Other characters are poorly defined by the script or weakly acted by an inexperienced cast. The music (of which there is much) is as intrusive as it is frequently inappropriate. Don't believe the film pseuds. Mickey Spillane or Dashiell Hammett it ain't.
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Bob Le Flambeur
akupm9 January 2014
Bob le Flambeur review: The plot was a complex saga. The film captured some brief shots of Paris in a noir mood. It gave a classic sensation to the picture. The movie didn't have a gripping tone. The characters had a deep nature that was underneath the surface. In addition I loved the vehicles that were driven for an example, the Cat-lax, and other stylish 1950s vehicles. I am in shock that Jean-Pierre Melville had directed that movie because it wasn't as great like his other titles such as 'Le Doulos' and 'A cop'. I was supremely disappointed. Sadly the substance was weak. But then again it was the picture he had choreographed before those two films in the 1950s. That title didn't have enough scenes of pure French scenery unfortunately. The costume and production designing could of been at it rich climax. But on the other hand my ears were trapped when I heard the Jazz soundtrack that was played by expensive instruments. I could easily tale that it had a powerful Hollywood inspiration. It had a strong French style I give the motion picture a 5 ½ 10
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Outstanding noir, but which version?
odresel11 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of my all-time favorite films. I saw it in Boston around 1982 when the film was released, it seems for the first time, in the US. The acting, the script, the astonishing performances from actors unknown to most US audiences, the modernity of it all...and Isabelle Corey. Well, the French have a word for it.

Paris, as always, steals the show to a certain extent, but that is one of the things (besides Isabelle Corey) that makes it worth viewing repeated times.

The one thing that I am perplexed by is this: when I saw it in 1982, I am quite sure it had a *completely different, and happier ending*. What I recall is: The gang gets into the casino and holds the staff hostage as planned. Bob is late, but gets there in the end to see them trying to open the safe...but there is some complication with the locks and they fail, and decide to run for it. They make it outside, where the Commissaire and his men catch them. Paulo didn't die in this cut. They are all arrested, and as they're being put in the police cars, out come the pageboys carrying all the banknotes Bob won at the Chemin de Fer Bob knows they'll be alright in the end.

In this case, I think the scene in the Criterion release where Melville comes on the voice-over and says "This is how the hold-up was supposed to take place" was actually seen at the end as the hold-up itself in the version I remember. As it is now, it's quite bizarre and something of a non-sequitur to see this scene placed, for no apparent reason, earlier in the film. This alternate ending also explains the odd situation several people have commented on, to the effect that Bob is seen after Paulo's death appearing not so concerned or saddened as we all think he should be.

So it seems to me that Melville made two versions, and that perhaps for some markets it was felt that Paulo had to die, since he'd gunned down Marc the Slimeball a few hours earlier.

They just do not make films like this anymore.
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From a big Melville fan, "Bob Le Flambeur" is disappointingly amateurish.
Sergeant_Tibbs10 July 2013
I'm quite a fan of what I've seen of Jean-Pierre Melville's stylish and quiet rendition of gangsters. Unfortunately, the charmless Bob the Gambler falls flat. The qualities I've enjoyed in his subsequent films, which I focused on the most, were incredibly inconsistent and near amateur. The grating cinematography mistakes stood out the most, not because of the framing, which was often nice, but the position of the camera from shot to shot completely lost spatial awareness and clearly unintentionally broke rules that this film could not get away with ending up as a huge distraction. It was packed with inexplicably jarring editing, if mostly due to the cinematography, if not then there seemed to be hints of homages to the mediocre gangster films of the '20s and early '30s. There was lots of unsettling axial cuts, time jumps and a pointless use of wipes and irises, which mostly felt ridiculous and destroyed any tension the film could have had. It also had bizarre musical cues in the score that rendered the film near parody.

However, I did enjoy the moral compass regarding how Bob earns money, and sees how others should earn money. It was a plot arc that wrapped up very nicely and intelligently, even though due to the style issues, I struggled to invest in the character. There's a very interesting network of characters with interlocking problems which sometimes worked quite well when I could figure out who was who, but unfortunately it didn't emphasise the hierarchy enough for it to matter. Overall, the erratic technical nature works against the films intended tone, and ends up just a mess with some neat ideas that Melville would later develop better in his subsequent films. I don't know why this is acclaimed, perhaps it was beyond its time, but it just doesn't feel like a professional effort. I suppose it could be considered an experimental film, but this was the trial and also the error. And a lesson I can learn from as well, since it proves what kinds of mistakes can ruin a whole film.

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Leisurely Drama
kenjha26 December 2012
The title character is an aging gambler and supposedly reformed gangster who finds himself on a losing streak and decides to rob a casino. As is the case with most films of Melville, the pace is leisurely - too much so. To the fans of the director, he can do no wrong, but he spends too much time on mundane events. Hardly anything happens for the first third of the film. The plan for the robbery is then put into motion and things become a bit interesting but it is not well sustained. The main attraction here is the alluring Corey, making her film debut as an oversexed teen. Apparently the young actress was plucked from the streets by the director.
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Bob, the big roller
jotix1002 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Jean-Pierre Melville loved all things American. His passion for the films that came out of Hollywood were precious to him, in that those pictures affected him and the way he conceived to present his work. Although not imitating Hollywood, he improved his narratives by creating characters that captured his audiences' imagination with his cool vision of criminals at work.

"Bob le fambleur" is sort of an indicator for the big turn the French cinema wag going to experience with the arrival of the New Wave directors in the late 1950s. Their films were considered innovative, daring and different, but one does not have to go too far to realize Mr. Melville had been there ahead of all of them. Watching the film today, one marvels at the technical details employed by the director, as well as his camera angles. Take, for instance, the shots in which the sanitary trucks spray water on Paris streets. One almost feels being there, trying to step away from getting splashed!

The screenplay by the director and Andre Le Breton, plays flawlessly because it feels real. The characters reflect an era of a bygone Paris where the night life was intense. Montmartre with its sexy clubs and night clubs were the haunt for the small time criminals that populated the area in the 1950s. We are given a glimpse at a different Paris even though its flavor has disappeared. The world of wise guys, prostitutes and the crowd they attracted are clearly depicted in the film.

Melville, as he is credited here, took a big risk in the casting of Roger Duchesne as Bob, because of his problem with alcohol. It would be inconceivable to think of anyone else playing the cool Bob, but him. There are other rewards in the talented cast Melville assembled for the movie. Isabelle Corey, seen as Anna, was perfect as the young woman Bob wanted to save from the life he had chosen. She, in turn, was a pivotal figure in the story. Daniel Cauchy is marvelous as young Paolo, the man who admired Bob without any reservation. The supporting cast makes an excellent contribution.

The black and white cinematography of Maurice Blettery and Henri Decae captured the lower depths of the Paris underworld which enhances the flavor of the film and ultimately, our enjoyment. The jazzy score by Eddie Barclay and Jo Boyer gives texture to the production. Ultimately, it is Mr. Melville's talent that brought all the elements together to give appreciative audiences one of the best pictures of this genre.
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A Top Quality Heist Movie With Memorable Characters
seymourblack-115 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Jean-Pierre Melville's entertaining heist movie is rich in atmosphere, style and flawed characters and it's these qualities, together with its moments of dry humour and amusing irony that make it so memorable. It's well documented that Melville was heavily influenced by American gangster movies of the 1940s and some evidence of this can be seen as the eponymous Bob wears a trench coat and fedora and drives a Cadillac convertible. Interestingly, however, Melville's use of location work, hand-held cameras and improvisation that are so effective in this movie, later became regarded as "de rigueur" by the French New Wave directors who followed him.

As the story begins, a cable car is seen symbolically making its steep descent to the "hell" of Montmartre and Pigalle which are the districts of Paris that Bob Montagne (Roger Duchesne) inhabits. He's an ageing gambler and an ex-con who's gone straight for the last twenty years. He's well known by the people who frequent the nightclubs and gambling dens of the area and over the years has also gained their respect and affection.

Bob is a fascinating character whose addiction is also his source of income. He's a gentleman who lives by his own code and often readily helps the people around him. Yvonne (Simone Paris) is the proprietor of one of the bars that he frequents and some years ago, he'd put up the money she needed to set up her business.

In Yvonne's bar, Bob meets a young prostitute called Anne (Isabelle Corey) who's homeless and he gives her money, provides her with accommodation and gets her a job at a local nightclub to prevent her from falling under the control of Marc (Gerard Buhr) who's a pimp with a reputation for using violence to control his women. Bob sometimes lends money to those who need his help but he draws the line at lending to pimps who he regards as being contemptible.

In the past, Bob has served time in prison for his part in a failed bank robbery and the son of his partner on that job, is now his protégé, Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) who admires Bob greatly and tries to be like him. When Paolo meets Anne, he finds her irresistible and they soon become lovers. Bob is also regarded as a friend by Police Inspector Ledru (Guy Decomble) because some years before, he'd saved his life by intervening when a gunman had tried to kill him.

When Bob suffers an exceptionally long losing streak and starts to experience financial problems, a solution seems to present itself when his friend Roger (Andre Garet) tells him about the enormous amount of cash that's normally held at the Deauville Casino on the eve of the Grand Prix. Bob convinces himself that if he could pull off a heist on the day when there's normally 800 million francs in the safe, he could overcome his current problems and also achieve long-term financial security. He recruits a group of men including Roger, Paolo and a professional safe-cracker and then takes charge of the planning and rehearsals that follow.

On the night of the heist, Bob goes to the casino before the rest of the gang but very soon gets sidetracked when he can't resist getting involved in playing the tables. The way in which his profound addiction to gambling affects what happens to him and the rest of his gang that night leads to the movie's very surprising and highly ironic conclusion.

Roger Duchesne is charming and cool as Bob and his extremely strong performance captures beautifully his character's unique mixture of toughness, kindness and melancholia. The contributions of the rest of the cast are also superb.

"Bob Le Flambeur" has a good plot and an excellent ending but it's the quality of its characters and the atmosphere of their surroundings that ultimately distinguishes it from the more ordinary entries in the heist movie genre.
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Bob Le Flambeur (Bob the Gambler)
Warning: Spoilers
Apparently this film is not very known for cinema goers and stuff, I certainly only heard of it when I saw it listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, so I had to see if it was one that may deserve more recognition. Basically Robert 'Bob' Montagné (Roger Duchesne) is an old well dressed gangster who has a nice apartment, two-toned convertible coupe and he respects the police, but his big problems is a compulsive love for gambling. On a losing streak he is considering a last job in the Montmartre district of Paris, he overhears that the Deauville Casino holds unimaginable quantities of money and is vulnerable during morning hours. Bob develops the scheme to steal the fortune, and he brings in a safe cracker and a few other underworld characters to help out, and at the same time the middle aged ex-con becomes involved with young Anne (Isabelle Corey), who has no place to live and stays with any man who will have her. Bob's friend and partner in crime Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) trusts the young woman when they spend some time together, he even tells her the robbery plan, and she betrays the gang on the night the heist is planned, unaware it was meant to be secret, and she tells pimp turned informant Marc (Gérard Buhr). Marc was going to tip off Inspector Ledru (Guy Decomble), who Bob saved the life of, about the robbery, but he is killed by Paulo before giving away the big details, and the police officer warns the gangster off the job. The man inside the casino, Jean the croupier (Claude Cerval), has also tipped off the police, and to occupy himself before any heist Bob gambles a winning streak inside the casino. He has ironically got a large enough fortune with his winnings, and when his friends arrive, as well as the police, there is a shoot out, where Paulo is shot, and he is finally arrested. Bob was able to stash his hundreds of chips inside Ledru's car, and he remarks the possibility he will get off lightly and be able to sue the police for damages, while lonely Anne waits for him at his place. Also starring André Garet as Roger, Howard Vernon as McKimmie and Colette Fleury as Suzanne. Duchesne gives a good performance as the gloomy and addictive risky gangster with a good poker face and all the moves, I did not notice many funny moments, but the story that is similar to Ocean's Eleven was quite good entertainment, and the gambling scenes are interesting too, a watchable crime comedy drama. Vey good!
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Brilliant Gangster Film
David Le Sage10 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
One of the greatest gangster films of all time, only Rififi really surpasses "Bob the Gambler". Although Melville's work predates the nouvelle vague movement by a few years, this stunning film clearly paves the way for the movement with its innovative editing, fast pace, use of non-professional actors, location shooting and unconventional story structure.

The energy these techniques inject is a far cry from the stilted, stage-bound dramas such as Christian-Jaque's Nana that were being produced in France at the same time.

The character of Bob is well-drawn and his gambling addiction is by turns tragic and farcical (he even has a slot machine in his wardrobe).

The momentum builds throughout but, like Hamlet, there is deceptively little action. The audience is left in suspense as they are taken through the planning phase of the audacious heist and then witness it unravel before it even begins.

The 16 year old non-professional Isabelle Corey does an excellent job in a brave role. Her mixture of naivety and street-awareness comes across well, so the decision to use an amateur is well-justified.

The noir lighting techniques and cinematography are still fresh in this film and the outdoor settings are what lend it the new vitality. This also reinforces the notion that this film is taking place in a real underworld, that you could go out tonight and walk around the very same streets in Montmartre and Pigalle as these gangsters inhabit.

Of course, it is Bob's gambling addiction that also, expectedly, leads to his downfall as his one winning streak ultimately proves to be his unluckiest of all. Of course, that is contrived but it works well and, again, helps to build the suspense of the film.

The ending is both fulfilling and subversive. Again, there is a hint of realism as the audience knows that, in real life, gangsters would be unlikely to succeed in such a scheme and that so many criminals are foiled from the outset. The ending is rapid and encapsulates the energy and freshness of the film as a whole. Bob is left standing, the old man who can no longer keep up with the energy of the new world and burnt out by his gambling.

Melville proves himself to be a true auteur here and sets a pattern for Godard, Truffaut and co to follow. In that sense, this is a revolutionary and highly-satisfying film.
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Solid early Melville.
Rockwell_Cronenberg8 March 2012
Coming a few years before Jean-Pierre Melville's ongoing obsession with trenchcoats and fedoras, Bob Le Flambeur is probably his most traditional noir flick, centered around the titular Bob (played by Roger Duchesne), an aging gangster who decides to go in for one final gamble by robbing a local casino. He recruits a small group of partners to come in with him, but the arrival of the beautiful young Anne (played with compelling charm by Isabelle Corey) throws a rift in the dynamic of the group and we all know how a girl can bring the downfall of a great many men.

It's all relatively standard procedure, but it's interesting to see Melville developing what would eventually become his trademark style. The film doesn't have the unbelievably slick style of Le Samourai or the brooding grit of Le Doulos, but at times you can see pieces of each and it's all built around an interesting central figure. Bob is a man who we never get the chance to fully explore, but it's that stoicism, that mystery, that makes him all the more engaging. Duchesne plays him with a haunted, world-worn reserve that reminded me of the kind of stuff that George Clooney has been doing for the last five years or so. Bob Le Flambeur ends up being a character study more than anything else, which made me kind of curious as to why Bob essentially takes a backseat to the supporting characters for the middle stretch of the film.

After the first act establishes him he almost disappears and we instead focus a lot more on the cops and Bob's young protégé Paolo (Daniel Cauchy). It was a disappointing turn, made all the more so by how interesting things got once we returned full-on to Bob in the final act. It's a diversion that's easy to understand in order to bring about the conflicts that drive the overall narrative, but it made me wish that we had been focusing on him entirely the whole time. Still, it's an ultimately minor complaint in an otherwise solid, if not overly impressive Melville entry. The film features an excellent ending as well, closing out on a high point.
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Good solid entertainment
filmalamosa19 February 2012
A gambler (Bob) down on his luck agrees to a heist. As another reviewer noted you have the typical thug ecology with split loyalties informers and trouble making women and in this one a well meaning cop.

The moral of the movie is to never tell anyone particularly a female anything about your business.

It is boiler plate good... so gets a 6 nothing really unusually good about it. Sort of like a decent novel but not one by Graham Greene which would net a 7.

I enjoy the reviews that suggest other avenues to explore; Netflix streaming doesn't have the cream of crop but you can find good sleepers and others not in high demand. Plus the real advantage: you can stop watching a dog.
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There is "Bob", There is "Le Flambeur", And somewhere between both ... there is "Melville" ...
ElMaruecan8230 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
What a strange film! Jean Pierre Melville's "Bob le Flambeur", released from 1954 to 1956, is a puzzling result offering two views that couldn't have been more opposite.

"Bob le Flambeur" is the movie that REALLY introduced the French Nouvelle Vague three years before Truffaut's "400 Blows" and Godard's "Breathless". It paved the way for a totally new cinematic style, less academic, more detached, jump cuts, hand-held camera, long tracking-shot and introspective narration. So despite its advanced age, "Bob" feels like a breath of fresh air on the 50's screens, no stars in the sky but a little wind blowing a new kind of cinematic expression. It's ironic that the Nouvelle Vague is said to have inspired America's New Hollywood movement in the end of the 60's when its most significant director was inspired by American film-noir. Cinema is like life, a series of new beginnings, of new reinventions.


"Bob le Flambeur" plays in a different league than the close-to-perfect "Army of Shadows", let's face it. Although one can love the narration by Melville, describing Montmartre as a world between sky and earth, heaven and hell, the rest was a display of amateurish acting, and dialogs that didn't ring with the same authenticity as in Melville's later films. The editing, the shooting, the death scenes are not the film's highlights either especially when you take into consideration that the same year, a 28-year old director named Kubrick made a masterfully edited heist film named "The Killing". But while I thought the ending of "The Killing" was weak, "Bob le Flambeur" got better as the narrative progressed.


The appreciation of "Bob le Flambeur" depends on the expectations. I, for my part, thought that "Bob le Flambeur" carried a strange bit of greatness, floating somewhere between the two visions I described. Both are true but both don't convey the true nature of the film, which is something innate to Melville's vision of cinema, art and men. In a way, "Bob le Flambeur" carries many aspects of the classic film-noir and as a movie made by a fan, it can even be described as a masterpiece of copy in its recreation of the gangster underworld, yet the fan made a movie that inspired many filmmakers, and reinvented the heist sub-genre. When the copy becomes Art, there's no other way to look at the film as the creation of a man who, despite everything, remained true to his nature.


"Bob le Flambeur" starts with an assemblage of archetypes retreated by Melville's introspective writing. Bob, Robert Duchesnes is the loner, an ex-con who retired from crime before War, a man with principles, whose only flaw is to gamble not only the money he has, but the money he hasn't. That's what "Le Flambeur" is about and "Bob" definitely belongs to another breed. Take his best friend for instance, a cop: Melville knew from his experience in the Resistance that the line between right and wrong, legal and illegal, could sometimes become uncertain. The generation gap is also indirectly highlighted by the flaws of the younger characters: Marc the pimp who'll turn out as an informant, Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) the young protégé who'll reveal the heist to impress the beautiful blonde, the scene-stealing Isabel Corey as Anne, beautiful indeed but definitely not the same caliber of dignity than Yvonne, the older bar owner. Some are defined by their principles or absence of principles, Bob is defined by his nature. Bob is a gambler, he's in a losing streak but believes in winning, in eight: his lucky number. So when he learns from his friend, Rene the ace safe-cracker that Deauville Casino's safe holds 80 millions franc and is more vulnerable at the morning, Bob decides to push his luck.


The heist' preparation is original and impressive, there's a whole sequence when Rene experiments the safe-opening operation with a stethoscope inter-cut with shots of a panting German shepherd. These remarkable displays of perfectionism are quickly undermined by Paolo's blunder and when Anne tells Marc about the heist, we know she ruined everything. And this is when the film catches the viewers off guard, featuring a series of events that elevate the film into a masterpiece of character study. Isabel tells Bob about her mistake and takes one hell of a slap without sobbing, the heist is almost canceled off until Paolo redeems his fault by killing Marc. The heist goes as planned and the gang starts 'working' unknowing that they've been betrayed by the croupier's wife, ironically the only one who didn't belong to the criminal world. Times change to the worst and maybe "Bob le Flambeur" is less about honor among thieves than dishonor among so-called good citizens.


And when we expect the plan to fail because of the wife, it's Bob himself, the mastermind who orchestrated the heist in a real-life chalkboard, who used the most scientifically accurate method, who ruins the project by simply playing and keeping on his winning streak, causing everyone's demise and Paolo's saddening death. The film plays with all the conventions of a genre, only to provide a classic on its own, getting better after each viewing.

The flaws are there but "Bob le Flambeur" shines as a powerful character study about a man who embodies a certain code becoming more and more obsolete, a certain fashion of life, and through gambling, the very attitude that would cause his demise and ironically could save him. Bob didn't play to win but played against the idea of losing, just like Melville shot the film during two long years, despite financial problems, shooting against the idea of not fulfilling his dreams.

"Bob le Flambeur" is the quintessential Melville film, something about the idea of remaining true to your nature …
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Sly Caper Movie.
Robert J. Maxwell12 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Roger Duchesne is Bob le Flambeur, the gambler, who is unable to keep away from the casinos in the seedy district of Montmartre. He has pretty seedy friends too. They get together and plan to pull an armed robbery of one of the clubs. The robbery is to be one of those suspenseful, precisely timed jobs in which some little thing always goes wrong and holds up the plan. The cops, not unfriendly types, are vaguely aware that something is up and an Inspector even warns Bob to stay clean. (He's been in the pen before.) Two "somethings" go awry in this story. The first of them is Isabelle Corey, a blond dancer at a nightclub and sometime lady of the evening, or rather early morning, when the clubs are shutting their lights off and the streets are still filled with drunken sailors.

Isabelle Corey is a friend of Bob le Flambeur. I called his friends "seedy" before, but it would be a mistake to call Isabelle Corey "seedy." Not a bit. No seeds here. She's more like a red, red rose that's newly sprung in June. Her hair is long and invitingly tousled, her eyes often downcast, her expression shy, her arms and most of her chest usually bare, and she seems to shiver slightly when she moves. And she doesn't seem more than slightly put out when somebody slaps her for being naughty. My kind of woman! Lamentably, one of the gang of thieves is Paolo and Paolo has a big mouth. He tells Isabelle Corey and Isabelle mentions it to somebody who talks to the police. Hearing of this, Bob le Flambeur is aghast. But, ever the optimist, he figures maybe it didn't penetrate to the proper ears within the gendarmerie. No Frenchman should ever be so optimistic. They should be like Mexicans, fatalistic to a fault.

The second thing that goes wrong is that Bob le Flambeur is supposed to be an inside man at one of the casinos. He's to meet the rest of the gang at just about the hour of closing and they will make a coordinated attack on the confused and befuddled casino staff.

But Bob le Flambeur is, after all, a flambeur and hanging around for a couple of hours in a gambling house, doing nothing but watching, proves to be impossible for him. So, putting aside for the moment any thoughts about his rendezvous with the others, he places a small bet. Winning, he places a larger bet. Continuing to win, he moves from roulette to the bacarat table. The bills pile up to a considerable height in front of them and he never bats an eye as the money accumulates. Robbery? WHAT robbery? In most movies of this sort, especially during the 1950s, this is the point at which the hero loses all on a single bet, steps outside to meet his destiny, and is plugged by the other gang members, for whom some sins are unforgivable.

Not here. Jean-Pierre Melville is not that kind of a director and not interested in such a tragic story. It suddenly occurs to Bob that he has a robbery to pull off but by the time he rushes outside, the gang have been stopped in their tracks by the cops. Knowing he was implicated, they put the cuffs on Bob too.

But as Bob sits in the police car, the staff of the casino bring out all his winnings, enough to keep him in clover for a long time. With the right lawyer, muses one police officer, you could get only a few years. With a better lawyer, another thinks, you could get a suspended sentence and no time at all. Bob le Flambeur looks into the camera and says that with the best of lawyers he could sue for damages and walk away with still more loot.

This sounds like a comedy but it's all played straight. A narrator somberly keeps us informed of Bob's actions and thoughts. Nobody laughs. Nobody even smiles. Melville was a neat guy, amiable and polite. He took his name from the author of "Moby Dick." And he was a friend of Margaret Mead, about whom he made a delightful short documentary, when they were both old. In the last shot of that documentary, Melville is holding the camera and walking backward away from the Venerable Mead. "Bye-bye, Margaret", he calls. Mead smiles and waves her hand, growing smaller in the distance, "Bye-bye, Jean." More sweet and satisfying than Bob le Flambeur but both films reflect his engaging personality.
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Leisurely but quietly absorbing little crime piece!
Shosanna Dreyfus6 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Bob le Flambeur is an interesting little crime film by a director that would prove very influential to New Wave cinema. The title character is a middle aged gambler who has served some prison time in the past for a failed bank robbery but is on friendly terms with the cop who arrested him (who also had his life saved by Bob on the day they met). The film is pretty plot less for the first forty minutes before there is any real talk of a casino heist, but in some ways those first forty minutes were my favorite part of the film. Not that the rest is bad, but I liked the leisurely pace of getting to see Bob roam around Paris and meet various characters he knows as well as taking a young girl under his wing. Bob's young friend Paolo looks up to him and even gets teased by being called Bob by some other characters in one scene. Both men befriend a pretty young blonde called Anne, who reminded me a little of myself when I first escaped to Paris (except in the one scene later on where she does something completely stupid that I would never do). I also did not know anyone and needed to find a place to stay. Isabelle Correy was surprisingly reportedly only fifteen when the film was made and director Jean-Pierre Melville's meeting with her is very similar to how Bob encounters her in the film - finding out that she has no place to stay and offering her help and a place to sleep. Much of the film's atmosphere and style seems more New Wave to me for most of the film but in the last half hour or so, things get far more film noir. The film is very influenced by American gangster movies and Bob spends much of the movie dressed in a trench coat. The fact that not much happens for much of the film and what does happen does not seem very consequential may put some people off but I very much had my attention taken by the whole film and enjoyed it's style and character interactions. In it's own way, I found it very interesting and it is a film I could see myself far more likely to return to than the likes of the fourth Indiana Jones movie or Predators. Filmed in clear, crisp black and white. I liked the relationship between Bob and Paolo and the film has a certain world weariness and cynicism without being depressing (I would say that a few bittersweet things aside - it is very idyllic and romantic in it's way, despite the feeling that none of the characters will ever really go anywhere). A very nice little film for lovers of French cinema and noir influences. If you liked this, I might recommend Stanley Kubrick's The Killers (which has much more action) or the similar character piece of Paul Thomas Anderson's Sydney (aka Hard Eight) and of course more great works from Jean-Pierre Melville. Just do not go into the film expecting lots of action or for the heist to be a big part of the film. If you're in the mood, then this can be a good little film when it unfolds at it's own pace.
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Early genre movie that helped to set the standards for coming movies.
Boba_Fett113827 July 2010
This is such a great movie, that does about everything right. It's an early French crime caper movie, that obviously helped to set the standards for later movies.

It's not like there weren't any movies like this prior to this movie but this is one that has all of the modern genre element type of ingredients in it, that we can still see back in todays movies. It perhaps makes this movie seem as a bit of a formulaic and generic one by todays standards but in the light of when this movie got made, it surely is a greatly original one. And it still really is one that is among the best, regardless of the fact that you probably have seen all of the elements in this movie being handled in later ones and better known ones as well.

It has a great story with some equally great characters in it. It's a very rich movie that also manages to capture the right tone, thanks to some fine directing. It has lots of typical crime elements in it, such as an heist, likable 'bad guys' and the cat and mouse game between them and the police.

It really is a fine made movie, that got directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The movie has a good look over it, as well as a nice steady pace. The scene's are being build up great and the entire story gets told effectively. It's a great 'how-to' on directing and storytelling. It feels really like a Hollywoodized version of a French movie but in this case that's a good thing. It's also why this also helped to influence movies from Hollywood as well.

No reason why to not like this movie.

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this film makes you a nice evening
wvisser-leusden21 July 2010
'Bob le Flambeur' (= French for something like 'Bob who burns things down') is a competently made French film from the mid-1950s.

Although never & nowhere brilliant, 'Flambeur' entertains from beginning to end. It provides a well-woven story, set in competent acting & shooting. It also shows elements of 'noir', which was pretty fashionable a decade before.

A special word for young blond actress Isabelle Corey, whose career was considerably pushed forward by 'Flambeur'. Although Corey definitely adds color to this black and white film, one cannot miss that in her looks & behavior she copies a lot of young Brigitte Bardot. To put it more precise: in 1956 Corey was seventeen, Bardot twenty-two.
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Remarkable portrait of addiction
evening16 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Here we have a remarkable portrait of a man who is dashing, suave, and together on the outside but who can't pass a second without drawing on a cigarette, tipping a glass, or tossing a card or die. This classic caper film is often mentioned along with "Breathless" -- and its protagonist, it seems, would suffocate if he couldn't indulge his addictions.

The film draws you in like an addictive substance: You can't help but want to try it, and once you do, you're hooked. When Bob is on screen you can't look away. Presence like this is a treat. (Who is this actor, Roger Duchesne, anyway? I'd never seen him before and there's nothing but a 'stub' on him on Wikipedia. Dommage!)

I loved this film but it leaves me uncomfortable and dissatisfied, though I don't fault the production. My discomfort centers on the sense of waste and missed opportunity that defines addiction. There is a part of Bob that wants to connect meaningfully with other human beings, particularly in a fatherly, mentor-like way. (Lacking a father and having an overworked, washerwoman mother he himself missed out on this kind of nurturing.)

He takes stabs at trying to protect Paolo, the son of an ex-heist partner, and he tries to shelter the underage streetwalker Anne, but his efforts seem desultory at best. Bob can't focus for more than a moment or two on anything that could lead to intimacy. There's always that next drink, drag, or bet to pursue...

As Bob tells the police commissioner, he's been "good" for the past 20 years, yet he rots in a jail of his own making. We see the extent of this devastation in the final scene when Bob rides in the squad car after his crew has been killed. To Bob it's just another day, another deal. He even looks younger, with his hair more graying than white at this point, as he hints at buying out the cops. It's only a matter of time before he's back at the tables. That's when he'll be breathing freely again...
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Classic Heist Film
Michael_Elliott19 February 2010
Bob le flambeur (1956)

**** (out of 4)

Outstanding heist film about an old-time gangster and gambler (Roger Duchesne) who finds himself broke when he hears that a casino will have a large sum of cash available for the taking. Even though his friends and even the police warn him against it, he decides to try for one last heist. The French noir genre seems to be growing more and more popular each passing year as film buffs continue to check out new, forgotten or need-to-be rediscovered films from the genre. I came to this one first as I had heard it was one of the greatest and it's somewhat hard to imagine, after seeing it, that anything else could really come close. Everything runs so smoothly that one can't help but be entertained by the events going on and especially the noir-ish acts of always blaming the women for everything that goes wrong. This film comes off so fresh and original that one can't help but imagine what it must have been like in 1956 when this stuff really was ground breaking. One of the many positive aspects is the terrific cinematography that constantly has the film floating around and really giving us a great look at the streets, the casino and various other important things for the plot. The way the music score just blends in so well with the cinematography is certainly "New Wave" but it still looks fresh all these years later. Melville's screenplay also offers up some terrific dialogue that really puts you in the middle of what's going on to the point where you feel as if you really are watching real professionals getting ready to pull off a heist. What also stands out are the performances with Duchesne who is wonderful in the title role. I really loved the laid back approach to the character and felt Duchesne had so much energy building up inside of him you couldn't help but keep your eyes on him and watch every little thing he did. Daniel Cauchy, Andre Garet and Gerard Buhr add nice support and it was fun seeing Howard Vernon in a small role years before his work with Jess Franco. Then we have Isabelle Corey who in my opinion steals the show. According to the IMDb she was only 16 when this was released but she certainly captures the sexuality of the role very well and she sizzles each time she is on the screen. It's certainly easy to see why these guys would fall all over her. I'm still very new to Melville but this here is certainly an impressive start and I look forward to checking out more of his work.
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Vintage French Crime Caper
zardoz-133 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Director Jean-Pierre Melville's carefully plotted heist caper "Bob Le Flambeur" (a.k.a. "Bob the Gambler") qualifies as an atmospheric exercise in film noir as well as one of the best French crime films about a robbery. During the first part of the action, Melville establishes the character of our ill-fated protagonist, while the second part concerns the planning and the execution of the crime. This vintage black and white robbery is reminiscent of the Hollywood film noir crime films and Melville does an effective job of setting up the robbery. Chiefly, "Rififi" scenarist Auguste Le Breton and Melville generate considerable tension because everybody, including the police, gets wind of Bob's plans. Mind you, this is a French language caper with English subtitles so only the most stalwart crime thriller aficionados may find this hold-up film enjoyable. The cast consists entirely of French actors and actresses, but the director, Jean-Pierre Melville, gained a reputation for making good crime films, including "Le Doulos" (1962) with Jean-Paul Belmondo, "Le Samouraï" (1967) with Alain Delon, "Le Cercle Rouge (1970) with Yves Montand, and "Dirty Money" (1972) with Richard Crenna.

Bob (Roger Duchesne) has already served as stretch for attempted bank robbery and he survives on his ability to gamble and win, but he experiences a hard luck losing streak that leaves him temporarily broke. Meanwhile, he is a gracious guy who has helped out a lot of people, including Paulo (Daniel Cauchy) and Anne (Isabelle Corey), and he takes care of them as if they were his children. Bob is also close friends with a police investigator. It seems that he saved the cop's life when he shoved him out of the line of fire of a bullet. The police inspector genuinely cares about Bob and doesn't want to see him do anything stupid. Bob and his accomplicees decide to rob a Deauville casino. Ironically, the night of the hold-up, Bob wins a bundle at the gaming tables and loses all track of time.
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Perfected the clichés that made every filmmaker want to rob casinos.
Ben Parker29 September 2009
"Bob the high-roller," as he was called in the translation I watched; loves gambling. He's also a thief. Everyone thinks he's retired, including the police sergeant he keeps in touch with. But he suddenly gets a taste for it again, and decides to put a group together and rob a casino. Remade un-memorably with Nick Nolte as The Good Thief, this black and white French original created the clichés that made the whole world sing, from Ocean's Eleven (1960), Reservoir Dogs (1991), Casino (1994) and every other breezy heist movie ever made. Stanley Kubrick said he stopped making crime movies because Melville made the perfect one here.

Great characters, a memorable score with jazzy sections, great performances, and probably the best pacing and story of any heist/noir/crime movie from the 30's, 40's or 50's. This is just guaranteed compulsively good entertainment, and as a first experience from Jean-Pierre Melville, instantly encourages me to see everything else he did. My next steps will by Le Cercle Rouge, Army in the Shadows and Le Samourai.
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as nature made him
jonathan-57718 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This film comes across as remarkably economical and compact considering that the whole first half turns out to be setup for a heist that never actually happens. The efficiency with which Bob is established as a neighborhood institution is even more remarkable for occurring alongside a whole other stream of sensual information - the amazing jokey score, the hypnotic use of light-dark patterns, the infinite telling details of character and setting - that set us up for what is to come. The percussive and uniformly brief scenes are also setup, giving way to a slower, lingering rhythm as the plot advances and the tension ramps up. This is the reverse of the usual progression and it works brilliantly, proof enough of Melville's mastery. The Bob of the second half is trying to escape his life 'as nature made him' (per Melville's great deadpan voice-over), and it's a rare filmmaker with the honesty and insight to show that the attempt is doomed. And to deliver that kind of insight with such a beguiling, offhanded humour - well, I've never seen anyone do it better.
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