A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women.
1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... 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 country with Manouche, Gu needs a final job to get some money. But that's not so simple when you have Inspector Blot tracking you, and have to deal with the consequences of the shooting in Paris... Written by
not bad at all, actually very good and meticulously structured heist movie, but not great
I had seen nearly everything that is readily available from Jean-Pierre Melville in the United States by the time I got to Le Deuxieme soufflé, which may be part of why I didn't respond overwhelmingly to it. After such challenging, methodical and precisely existential crime masterpieces as Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge, Bob le flambeur and the underrated Le Doulos, this one just seemed to not pack the same kind of punch that the others did. Again, this may be the fault on the viewer for seeing this last among his mostly thriller-oriented oeuvre, but perhaps it's also some of Melville's fault too; again and again, as the dedicated and ruthless auteur that he was (one of the great French directors I would argue), he kept coming back to men in trench-coats with grim expressions figuring out on both sides- criminal and detective- of how to plot the next move or, for the former, how to keep from the fatalism of the plot.
Which, for Melville, is something that comes second nature. The difference, perhaps, in this case is that the length (a whopping two and a half hours, longer than both The Red Circle and Army of Shadows) and the amount of details in the structure of the story (i.e. what happened on such and such a day made this happened could've been snipped, albeit I can't pinpoint to which) bog down some of the more successful aspects to the picture. Which is also to say that for all of its minor misgivings, Le Deuxieme soufflé (or, simply, The Second Breath) is near-classic Melville, with nail-bitingly tense suspense scenes like the opening escape from the prison and the latter heist sequence- somewhat more obvious and less coolly ambitious as Red Circle.
There's the amazing cinematography as well, a trademark of Melville and his crew to make things gritty but smooth in precision and style, and the performances from Paul Meurisse as the Detective (maybe my favorite performance of the picture just for the intelligence he imbues in the character), and Lino Ventura as one of the quintessential Melville anti-heroes, Gu, the convict who wants in on the big 200 million heist. And even as it could be Melville's most "talky" picture after Bob le flambeur (which is relative to how pleasantly light, or how seemingly sparse, his films are with dialog), when the characters speak it's to the point of with some quotable spunk to them.
There's an icy, unspoken angst in Melville's world of criminals, almost questioning but still true to the notion of the 'policier', where you'd want the criminals to get away with it if the detective wasn't so doggone determined all the time. It's another fine piece of film-making from the director, just not an all-time-top flick - more along the lines of Un flic. 8.5/10
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