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 »
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.
On the eve of his release after five years imprisoned, the thief Corey is contacted by one guard of the prison that offers him a jewelry heist. However Corey seeks out his former boss Rico and steals money from him. Rico sends two gangsters to hunt Corey down and retrieve the stolen amount. Meanwhile the criminal Vogel is transported by train by the Police Officer Mattei and succeeds to escape. Corey drives from Marseille to Paris and Vogel hides in the trunk of his car. Corey finds him but does not object to ride Vogel to Paris hidden in the trunk. When the gangsters sent by Rico cut in Corey's car, Vogel saves him from the criminals, but Corey loses the money. Without money, Corey decides to heist the jewelry with Vogel and invites the former police detective Jansen to team-up with them. The trio executes a perfect heist but Rico is seeking revenge and Mattei is an unethical but efficient police officer capable to use any means to resolve the case.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of my new favorite heist pictures: a smooth success for Melville and his cast
Jean-Pierre Melville is a director I've only recently gotten acquainted with (I need to see Bob le Flambeur and Le Samourai again to fully grasp them), but in watching Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle, supposedly based on a saying in Buddhism) I realized I was watching as skillful and absorbing a crime film as I had seen in a quite some time. Though his film has dialog, it is mainly to keep the film's scenes rolling along, adherent to the plot. What kept me on the alert, even in seemingly mundane scenes/sequences, was the emphasis on the characters' movements, or behavior patterns. Melville has his story laid out, and he is careful to take his time to tell it (this could seem boring to some, but it does seem to work since he puts a little more emphasis on the weight of the characters/environments over plot).
Yet look at each of the four main players: Alain Deleon as Corey (just released from prison, scheming a new heist), Gian Maria Volonte as Vogel (escaping & on the lam from hand-cuffed custody, meets Corey by luck), Yves Montand as Jansen (an aged pro with many years of experience with weapons, a friend of Vogel), and Andre Bourvil as Mattei (an experienced investigator, who is on the look-out for Vogel, and on his toes with internal affairs). Each of these actors plays their parts with precision, detachment, and they each have their own kinds of moments that indicate to the audience what their personalities might be besides as criminals and cops. The heist sequence gives little hints, for example, like how Vogel cops-a-feel off a female statue while passing down the halls, or how Jansen takes out a flask and merely has a whiff of the contents (and what a dream this guy creates). Even Corey's movements involving a photograph of a woman arouse interest.
As absorbing and cool the story becomes, and as great the skills were to make it happen (via cinematographer Henri Decae, the editing, and the musical score by Eric Demarsan), it's the people on the screen that gain fascination, in how they stay true to their natures and ideals. Not a film to be missed by French new-wave enthusiasts, and modern-day crime movie buffs might want to take the 140 minutes to soak up the atmosphere of Melville's work. A suave piece of film-making that still ranks as one of my all-time favorites.
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