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Jean-Pierre Melville anticipo` la
"nouvelle vague" con la
produzione a basso costo di Le Silence De La Mer (1949), un film
antitedesco sul periodo dell'occupazione.
Un'altra trasposizione letteraria,
Les Enfants Terribles (1949), da Cocteau, confermò il metodo
improvvisato e una serie di film autoprodotti,
sul milieu della mala francese con gran colpo al casinò e
un giocatore roulette-dipendente, lo portarono in era di rinnovamento.
Il migliore e` Bob Le Flambeur (1956), una formidabile imitazione
del noir in voga negli USA.
Bob is a middle-aged gambler who walks out of a club early in the morning and
sees a sexy teenager accept a motorcycle ride from a sailor.
Everybody knows him. Even a police car stops to give him a ride.
Afterwards the detective tells his pals that Bob once saved his life.
Bob is a former criminal who spent many years in prison for robbing a bank.
When a pimp, Marc, comes asking for money, Bob kicks him out: he has his own principles
and does not like men who abuse girls.
Later Bob sees the same pimp talk to the sexy teenager. Bob sends Marc
away and lectures the teenager about the dangers of hanging out in that
neighborhood where most girls end up prostitutes. The girl, Anne, is defiant
but is pleased that he is so protective. He invites her to sit at the table
with his young friend Paolo, who immediately falls in love with her.
Bob warns her against getting seduced by the lights of the night life and
gives her money for a hotel.
Meanwhile the pimp has been arrested by the detective for beating his girl,
Lydia. The detective, Bob's friend, is willing to let him go if he becomes an
informer, and Marc accepts.
Bob, who drives a big expensive US-made car, picks up Anne again. She has
just been evicted from the hotel. This time Bob offers her to move in with him.
Later they meet Paolo. Bob tells Paolo to stay away from Marc and leaves him
When they get to Bob's place, Anne starts undressing right away in front of
Paolo and Paolo smiles.
Meanwhile Bob spends another night gambling and losing. When he gets home, he
finds them sleeping naked in bed but doesn't even wake them up.
While they continue their romance, Bob loses almost all his money.
A friend mentions that a casino's safe contains a fortune and Bob decides that
it is time to strike again. He looks for Paolo and finds him dealing with Marc.
Bob treats Paolo like a son. He warns Marc to stay away from them.
They find money from a rich Scotsman and hire a seasoned safecracker.
Then the group trains meticulously. A bar owner, Yvonne, who has been a close
friend of Bob since he lent her the money to buy the bar, guesses that he is
getting into something dangerous and offers to lend him money, worried that
he is too old to risk another prison term.
Meanwhile, Paolo has told Anne. Anne is looser than ever with men. She sleeps
with both Paolo and Marc. Paolo wants to cover her with gold and has told her
about the planned heist. Marc wants to turn her into a prostitute and she seems
to prefer Marc's plan. One day she tells Marc that Paolo will soon be rich,
and that the plan is to rob the casino. Marc sees that this is the chance to
keep his promise with the detective. Anne realized that she has created a
problem and rushes to tell Bob what she has done. Bob finds out that Marc
has been visited by cops and guesses that Marc is an informer. When Paolo shows
up, Bob tells him that he's an idiot: not only his girl cheated on him with
Marc, but his desire to impress the girl with his stories has killed their plan
that now must be aborted. Paolo rushes out of the bar.
From behind the bar, Yvonne is a silent witness of everything that is going on.
She only sees their actions, does not hear their discussions, but it's enough
for her to guess.
Menawhile, there's another problem caused by a woman. The plan relies on a
croupier who is supposed to stall an elevator. When his wife finds out, she
gets mad at him that he didn't ask for more money. She drags him out in the
street looking for Bob to renegotiate the deal.
Paolo finds Marc and kills him just when Marc is dialing the number of the
detective to confirm that Bob is behind the plan.
Not having found Bob anywhere,
the croupier's wife decides that the best course of action is to call the police
and turn Bob in, so that her husband will not have to stall the elevator and
will not be involved.
His friend the police detective has dinner with Bob to warn him against going ahead with
the plan. Bob is determined.
Anne, now a dancer in a nightclub, indifferent to the death of Marc,
receives the key of Bob's apartment, that
Bob has left for her so that she has a decent place to stay.
The police is ready to lay its trap at the casino.
The police detective walks all over town leaving the message for Bob that he
has to stay away from the casino.
Bob walks into the casino, and, while waiting for the croupier to show up,
starts playing. He starts winning, and keeps winning. This time Lady Luck
is with him. He forgets about the plan.
Meanwhile, Anne, the silly amoral girl who has caused all the trouble, happily
enters his house and makes herself comfortable.
Bob is still playing (and winning) when the gang sets the plan in motion.
The police are waiting for them. The gang is trapped. They try to shoot their
way out and a few are killed. Among them is Paolo. Bob rushes out of the
casino just in time to see his protege Paolo die. Bob and the survivors are
handcuffed while casino employees carry out two large boxes full of banknotes:
all the money that Bob won that night, money that made the heist pointless.
The money is placed in the trunk of the police car. In the car Bob is told
that all that money will help him hire a good attorney who will probably
have him acquitted of the attempted robbery. The police detective smiles,
as if happy that Bob the scoundrel has a way out. Bob himself, who never lost
his temper throughout the movie, makes a joke, as if he was certain that
he would win this hand too. After all, a gorgeous girl is waiting for him
at the house.
Ma Melville fu anche uno dei primi a convertirsi al cinema commerciale con i
suoi gialli ispirati ai classici "neri" americani:
Le Doulos [(1962) gangster ambientato nella
mala francese con riflessione sull'amicizia virile a sfondo pessimistico: Belmondo finisce in carcere per
un colpo fallito e fa giustiziare dagli amici un presunto traditore che ha uccisa la sua amante che in
realtà gli è sempre stato fedele ed ha uccisa la vera traditrice], Le Deuxieme
Souffle[(1967) stesso milieu e stessa morale: la corsa verso la morte di un vecchio gangster tradito dai
giovani complici che comunque fa in tempo a giustiziare], e soprattutto
Le Samourai (1967).
Jef Costello e` solo nella sua spoglia camera. Fuori piove. L'unica compagnia
e` il cinguettio di un uccellino. Jef esce di casa e ruba un'auto. La porta da
un amico che le cambia la targa in cambio di denaro. Jef e` un gangster
taciturno, glaciale e cronometrico, che conosce tutti i trucchi del mestiere.
Indossa sempre un cappello e un impermeabile, e, quando sta per commettere un
crimine, i guanti bianchi.
Va a trovare la sua donna, l'avvenente Jane Lagrange. Le chiede di darle un
alibi fino alle 2 di notte. Lei aspetta qualcuno alle 2, per cui l'alibi
varra` soltanto fino all'1:45.
Si reca in un locale in cui sta suonando una pianista africana. Penetra
nell'ufficio del padrone e lo uccide. Nell'uscire, viene visto dalla pianista
in pieno volto, poi di sbieco da diversi altri inservienti. Poi si fa vedere
dall'uomo che sta per entrare nell'appartamento di Jane. La polizia lo
ferma subito tra i sospetti. L'investigatore conosce il suo passato e sente
che questo e` un suo crimine. Jane conferma il suo alibi. Il suo amante
conferma di averlo incontrato mentre entrava. I testimoni sono incerti:
alcuni lo riconoscono, altri no. La pianista e` categorica nello scagionarlo,
benche' lo abbia visto in pieno viso.
L'investigatore lo rilascia controvoglia, ma lo fa pedinare.
Jef semina il poliziotto che lo segue e si incontra con lo scagnozzo del
mandante. Questi invece di pagarlo tenta di liquidarlo. Jef rimane ferito
ma fugge. Il mandante e` un riccastro che vive in una casa piena di quadri
d'arte. Lo vuole eliminare perche' sa che la polizia e` sulle sue tracce.
Adesso sia la polizia sia i gangster gli danno la caccia. La polizia installa
microfoni nel suo alloggio, ma Jef se ne accorge. Jef affronta la pianista,
le confessa di aver ucciso perche' pagato. E` misteriosa la ragione per cui
la pianista ha mentito all'investigatore.
Il mandante invia il suo sicario a far pace e a proporre un nuovo contratto.
Jef accetta il contratto, ma picchia il sicario finche' gli confessa il nome
del mandante.: Olivier Rey. Poi semina la polizia che gli sta dando una
caccia spietata nel metro. Ruba un'altra auto, la porta dallo stesso amico,
che gli dice "pero` questa e` l'ultima volta". Va a salutare la sua Jane,
poi penetra nella casa di Rey, lo affronta. Rey gli chiede se accetta il
contratto: Jef risponde di si`, ha gia` trattenuto i soldi. Poi Jef gli spara a
bruciapelo per vendicarsi.
Jef entra nel locale, si avvicina alla pianista, tira fuori la pistola.
La pianista gli chiede perche'. Jef risponde che e` stato pagato per ucciderla.
E` lei la vittima del contratto di Rey (probabilmente lei era
la donna di Rey, aveva mentito all'investigatore per non far arrestare Jef,
ed era diventata una testimone pericolosa). Jef fa per sparare, ma la
polizia lo fulmina. L'ispettore prende il revolver e fa vedere alla pianista
che non c'erano pallottole. Jef si e` fatto uccidere.
La quintessenza del film noir. Un uomo solitario, senza scrupoli, senza
emozioni, che si limita a suguire il proprio destino. Il suo destino e` di
vincere sempre, e vincere significa uccidere qualcuno ed eludere la polizia.
L'unico modo di scampare a quel destino e` quello di farsi uccidere.
L'Armee des Ombres/ Army of Shadows (1969) is a psychological thriller set among the Resistance fighters of World War II. The most suspenseful scene
is actually the one in which the partisans have to kill one of theirs.
The film begins with soldiers marching under the Arc de Triomphe.
France is occupied by the Nazists. Philippe is a political prisoner taken
(by the French guards who cooperate with the occupier) to a prison camp
(a huge camp that was built to accommodate many French prisoners, but mostly
unused because very few French resisted). The French investigator reads the
report on Philippe: he is a suspected leader of the Resistance.
The French transfer Philippe to the nazists, but Philippe manages to
escape by using another gullible prisoner to distract the guards, indifferent
to the fact that the other one will be shot by the guards. Philippe
reaches his friends Felix and Le Bison. They have to kill the young informer,
Paul, who turned Philippe in. They find him and take him to the house of a
young enthusiastic novice, Le Masque. They cannot use a pistol because it
would make noise. They try to find a suitable means for the execution while
Paul listens harmless and meekly. Eventually they have to strangle it.
All of them watch the execution: Philippe stares coldly, while Le Masque is
devastated and Felix sweats. Philippe gives Felix a cyanide pill to be swallowed
if he is ever arrested by the nazists. In a bar Felix meets his old friend
Jean-Francois and talks him into performing a mission for them: deliver a radio
transmitter to a fellow operative.
While Jean-Francois travels by train and delivers the object to
Mathilde (Simone Signoret), Philipe informs Felix of a dangerous submarine
mission to reach the command of the Resistance in exile: Philippe will
accompany the "Grand Patron", the secret boss of the Resistance, whose
identity is unknown to them.
While he is in the city, Jean-Francois also visits his elder brother Luc,
a philosopher who lives in a mansion. When Philippe takes off for his
submarine trip, he meets the "Grand Patron": it's Luc.
Philippe and Luc spend a few days in London. Back home the nazists arrest
Felix, who is in charge of the group while Philippe is away,
and start interrogating him under torture.
Philippe decides to return home and is parachuted back to France.
Mathilde is now in charge, a very efficient boss. Philippe meets her in person.
She tells him that neither her husband nor her daughter know of her secret
work. She has a dangerous plan to free Felix. Jean-Francois listens while they
talk and decides to help in his own way: he mails to the
nazists an anonymous letter denouncing himself, as if it was sent by an
anonymous informer. The nazists bite: they arrest him, torture him and throw
him in to the same cell as the moribund Felix.
Meanwhile, Mathilde, Masque and Le Bison, wearing nazist uniforms, drive
a German ambulance to the prison and pretend to be sent to transfer Felix
elsewhere. They don't know that Felix is dying: the prison's doctor informs
them that the transfer would be pointless. They risked their lives for nothing.
In prison Jean-Francois helps Felix commit suicide.
Philippe meets Mathilde. She tells him that the police are looking for him.
Seconds after Mathilde leaves him, the police captures him.
He is thrown into a jail with other Frenchmen. One day the nazist guards come
to pick them up: they are to be executed.
The nazist guards drive the prisoners to a courtyard and unchain them. The
officer tells them that they have a chance: if they can run fast enough and
reach the wall, they will not be executed. Philippe knows that the nazi officer wants
to see him run like a coward. They all start running except him. Eventually,
though he cannot resist and starts running too. When the soldiers start
shooting, he is almost at the wall. Someone throws a smoke bomb and drops
a rope. He grabs it and starts climbing. His men have engineered his escape.
Later in the car they tell him that it was Mathilde who planned it.
Philippe is ashamed that he gave in to fear like the nazist officer had wanted.
him to an isolated house, where he hides. Now he feels useless.
He only finds five books: the books that Jean-Francois wrote before the war.
Jean-Francois' brother comes to tell him that Mathilde has been arrested, and
blackmailed in a terrible manner: they will send her daughter to a brothel for
nazist soldiers if she does not coooperate. Minutes later
Le Masque and Le Bison arrive. Luc hides. The two men inform Philippe
that Mathilde has been released but two of their men have been arrested.
Philippe decides that Mathilde must be liquidated
Le Bison, whose life was saved by Mathilde, is disgusted and refuses to obey.
Philippe is about to shoot him when Luc emerges and calms everybody down.
Luc reasons that Mathilde has turned in only two minor operatives to save
her daughter. Luc reasons that Mathilde now wants to get killed by them,
having saved her daughter and having become a target for further nazist
action. Le Bison accepts this explanation. When the two men leave,
Luc admits to Philippe that he himself doesn't believe in his own theory.
A few days later Philippe, Luc, Le Bison and Le Masque shoot Mathilde
in the street. The car drives towards the Arc de Triomphe, where the film
began. Titles tell what will happen to the four:
Le Masque will swallow his cyanide pill,
Le Bison will be beheaded by the nazis,
Luc will be tortured to death, and
Philippe, apparently, will be shot dead by the nazis
("will not run this time").
Le Cercle Rouge/ The Red Circle (1970) is inspired to a Buddha saying,
but that saying is actually a Melville invention. That's the only joke in
an austere, somber and elegant "film noir". There is also only one woman in
the entire film (other than dancers in a cabaret) and she only says a few
words, reduced to photos and a naked body. The stories of the three protagonists
are never told, but from their looks one can guess: one has the look of someone
who has killed before, one has the look of a cold calculating criminal who
has paid before, and one has the look of a failed man who needs to prove
something to himself.
A cop, superintendent Mattei, is escorting a criminal on a train. They
walk into their night car, and Mattei handcuffs the criminal to a rail of
the bunk bed. The prisoner pretends to fall asleep but he is actually
opening his handcuffs with a needle.
Meanwhile in a prison cell the guard tells the prisoner, Corey (Alain Delon),
that he will be released in the morning and tries to recruit him for a heist.
The prisoner escapes from the train, in vain pursued by the superintendent
who then calls for a mass search operation.
Meanwhile, Corey is released from prison and before leaving he picks up
his personal belongings, notably photos of a sexy girl.
Corey rings the bell of an apartment. He cannot see her, but his former
girlfriend is in bed with the owner of the apartment. The man opens the door,
pretending to be happy to see him and trying to find a justification for
not visiting him all those years. Corey coldly demands money and promises to
return it. The man opens
the safe and Corey is faster to grab his gun and to take all the money,
replacing it with the photos of the girl.
The girl is eavesdropping naked behind the bedroom's door.
As soon as Corey leaves, the man phones his men to start chasing Corey.
Corey walks in the still deserted streets into a
pool billiard club that is still closed.
Two men corner him to get the money back, but he kills one and walks away
calmly. Meanwhile, a massive search for the escaped prisoner is underway
in the woods. It started snowing.
Corey is eating at a restaurant when he sees the fugitive hide in the trunk of
his car. Corey drives him through a roadblock and into a field,
and then introduces himself. They become friends. While the fugitive, Vogel,
is hiding again in the trunk, Corey's car is stopped by two gangsters.
They take the money and walk him to the woods where they are about to execute
him when Vogel gets out of the trunk and kills them, manipulating the guns so
that it looks like they killed each other.
The superintendent, summoned by the police chief, claims that only he can
find Vogel and begins his mission.
Corey and Vogel break into an apartment where dust and spiderwebs show that
nobody has lived there in years. It is probably Corey's old place, equipped
with a photo of the same woman.
The superintendent visits a cabaret, whose owner was a good friend of Vogel,
and thratens him with arrest if he doesn't help the police track down Vogel.
The cabaret owner proudly declares that he is no informer, no matter what.
Corey and Vogel discuss the plan for the heist. They need a sharpshooter.
Vogel suggests a former cop, Jansen. When they phone him, Jansen is actually
hallucinating: he is an unshaved drunkard. He is woken up and startled
by the loud telephone ring.
Meanwhile, the police found the two corpses and blood-drenched banknotes,
and concluded that they killed each other, but the mystery is what happened
to their car, whose tire marks are clearly visible in the mud.
Jansen shows up at a cabaret well-dressed, shaved and elegant, and is recruited
by Corey and Vogel.
Jansen visits a jewelry shop,
pretending to be a rich customer interested in a bracelet, but in reality
analyzing the security setup.
Corey and Vogel break into the jewelry store and immobilize the guard,
while Jansen paces outside in the deserted streets towards the front of
the building. Jansen enters the store, that the two opened for him,
shoots a special bullet into the keyhole, so that the entire system is
disabled and and all glass cabinets are unlocked. Jansen walks back to
the car while the other two take all the jewelry, amounting to a huge sum.
Everything goes well except that, when they approach the "fence" to sell
the jewelry, the "fence" finds an excuse not to buy it. Corey leaves
disappointed. He doesn't see that his rival is hiding behind the door,
having instructed the "fence" not to help Corey.
Corey and Vogel ask the cabaret owner for help.
The superintendent has the cabaret owner's son arrested in order to blackmail
his father. The blackmail works even better than the superintendent hoped
because the kid is truly guilty of a crime and even tries to kill himself.
Jansen does not want his share of the money: he already fulfilled his goal.
He simply tells Corey that it would be too long to explain.
At the cabaret Corey is approached by the superintendent, who,
obviously tipped by the cabaret owner, is posing as a potential customer for
the merchandise. The superintendent gives him an
appointment at a mansion outside the city.
The trio shows up. Corey walks inside to close the deal, but
Vogel senses that something is wrong and interruts the conversation.
The trio tries to run away but cops chase them through the park of the mansion,
killing them one by one.
Un Flic/ Dirty Money (1972) is a gangster film and a heist film, but
set in a cold universe of beings that behave like they have been drained of
any degree of humanity. They are not cynical or greedy, they are simply
devoid of emotions.
The film is mostly about that mood of indifference, that existential spleen.
The plot, instead, is amateurish. The longest sequences are awkward
imitations of Hitchcock-style B-thrillers.
Some of the gaps in the story might add to the atmosphere, though.
It is never explained whether the inspector knew that the gang leader's girl
was doublecrossing him (not her man). It is not even clear why she doesn't
get arrested (she's the one who has committed the most heinous crime, murder).
The possibility is left open that she might have helped the inspector capture
It is not clear why the inspector does not arrest the drug mule but lets
him travel to the next station. It is not clear how the robbers know of
the drug shipment (through the girl?)
Why doesn't the inspector arrest the leader of the gang?
We are never shown the inspector's private life. We don't know whether he is
married or single, where he lives, what he does when he is not policing the
As an action movie it is an absolute failure because the bank heist and
the helicopter sequence are neither suspenseful nor spectacular.
On the other hand, neither the murders and the torture are shown,
an indication that the director deliberately wants to avoid sensationalism.
Four middle-aged men drive around in a deserted neighborhood by the beach
on a very stormy day. Three of them get out and enter a bank.
They wait for the customers to leave and then they pull out machine guns.
A teller pushes the alarm button, grabs a gun and wounds one of the bandits,
Marc. The others carry him and two sacks full of money to the car
that is waiting outside.
Meanwhile, laconic police inspector Edouard, who never seems to smile,
drives around the busy streets of the big city, indifferent to the cases
that pop up during the day and the night and that seem to fill his entire
the murder of a young woman,
a teenage boy who tried to rob a rich homosexual,
a trio of pickpockets.
The robbers drive to a train station and buy three tickets to confuse the
police, but then they only switch car and take off in a different one.
They stop in the countryside and bury the loot before heading to their
The inspector has a night appointment with a blonde transvestite, Gaby, who
is also a police informer. Gaby has learned of a drug smuggling operation
that will be carried out by a drug mule named Matthew.
One of the robbers, Paul, gets home to his anxious wife.
Paul is an aging former bank manager who lost his job and has trouble finding a
new one because of his age. He makes his life believe that he is out
searching for a new job.
The inspector walks into a night club and plays the piano.
A sexy woman watches and listens.
The club is owned by the very leader of the gang, Simon, and the woman,
Cathy, is his girl friend, but she also behaves as if she is close to
Edouard. They all know each other well.
When Edouard leaves, Simon tells Cathy that the heist went well.
Later Simon meets the other two and tells them that Marc, the wounded one,
is a problem for them.
They enter the hospital dressed like ambulance workers and
distract the receptionist while Cathy, dressed like a nurse, enters the room
where Marc is and kills him.
Edouard visits Cathy and they make love. Edouard is convinced that
Simon has known of their affair since the beginning.
Simon treats Edouard like a friend. When alone with his two accomplices,
though, Simon becomes again the ringleader:
the trio is planning a bigger robbery. They are using the loot from the bank
heist to organize an attack on the drug smuggler, Matthieu.
Paul tells his wife that he has to travel for business again.
His wife is lovely and anxious about him.
Gaby informs Edouard of the exact train and coach where the police can arrest
Matthieu. At the club Simon tells Cathy of his new plan.
Edoaurd enters and finds them together. They all drink together.
Matthieu boards the train, spied by Edouard who wants to make sure that
Gaby told the truth. Edouard sees three men board the train and then leave:
they just delivered the drugs to Matthieu. He stores it in a briefcase.
Satisfied, Edouard leaves the station and instructs the police of the next
station to arrest Matthieu.
A helicopter follows the train. The three thieves are on board.
Simon lowers himself to the train, breaks into Matthieu's compartment,
knocks him out and steals the briefcases with the drugs.
This is a very long scene.
Matthieu wakes up and throws the remaining briefcase from the window.
When the police tries to arrest him, he doesn't have any drugs.
Edouard gets mad at Gaby, who leaves in tears:
the transvenstite seems to be in love with Edouard, and work for him not
for a sense of duty nor to avoid being arrested but because he feels for
The police finally finds out the identity of the man who was assassinated
at the hospital, and Edouard connects him with Louis, one of the four
robbers. Edouard captures him at a restaurant and then tortures him in
order to get the names of the other two members of the gang.
Simon and Paul learned of the arrest but are
confident that their buddy will never squeal.
They don't know that Edouard is using illegal methods of interrogation.
Edouard leaves the police station and drives to Simon's night club.
He confronts Simon implying that Louis has squealed; but then Edouard does
not arrest Simon.
Simon calls Paul and tells him that Louis squealed .
Just then the police is parking under Paul's house.
Paul shoots himself rather than end up in jail.
Simon phones Cathy
and Delon at the police station is eavesdropping on their phone call.
Simon walks out of the night club into the deserted street, Cathy drives in,
Simon starts walking towards her carrying
the briefcase full of drug.
Edouard arrests him.
Simon puts his hand in the coat as if he were to pull a gun and Edouard kills
watches without saying a word. She only exchanges a quick look with Edouard.
When the police leave,
she remains alone in the street.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx) |
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If English is your first language and you could translate the Italian text, please contact me. |
L'eroe di questi gialli "noir" è un guerriero appartenente a una
casta eletta che si muove nel mondo violento della malavita; è un samurai, duro e misterioso,
deciso a portare a termine la sua missione e se necessario a fare "harahiri", dedito a una causa che
è segnata dal codice d'onore della malavita e dall'amicizia virile che lega i gangster; non crede in
nulla, non ama nessuno; è solo contro il resto del mondo; la rapina, l'omicidio, il carcere, la fuga
sono i gesti ripetitivi di un cerimoniale pagano.
I film di Melville sono costruiti intorno ai temi dell'amicizia, del tradimento,
dell'onore, della solitudine. Per il resto i suoi film noir seguono fedelmente i