Thursday, February 7, 2013

Le Cercle Rouge. A

Though his last film was Un Flic (1972), it seems as if Jean Pierre Melville's grand exit occurred with his penultimate project, Le Cercle Rouge. It's a deep and complex two hour and twenty minute crime picture, perhaps The Moby Dick of Melville's career (of course, his real name was Grumbach, but he changed it to acknowledge his favorite American writer). In fact, though narratively the two stories have nothing in common, there's this idea of the desperate reach and failure of man that they share. Here it concerns a man just our of prison, an escaped convict, and an ex-cop collaborating on a Jewel heist all for different reasons. The subjectivity of pursuit is another idea that unites these two works, as different reasons for killing the whale compare to the different reasons these three characters have for carrying out the theft. On a less thematic note, Le Cercle Rouge is also stunningly made, with a slow, consistent pace that allows for long, silent scenes in which we merely observe. But every so often there's a great scene of rich dialogue, powerful the same way as the sparse conversation in Moby Dick is. Still, I don't want this movie to sound too portentous or academic. Melville is great at creating suspense and excitement and he disperses it throughout the film. There's a fantastic chase scene through the autumn woods early on, a great car trunk sequence that perhaps inspired the scene from Out of Sight, and finally the heist itself, which is second only to Rififi as best ever.

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