I love Le Samourai as well but Le Cercle Rouge could be Melville’s masterwork. I wasn’t a HUGE fan of Army of Shadows (which he considers his best work… or at least his most “personal”). What do you think?
I have all of Melville’s gangster films & Army of Shadows and like them all. Le Cercle Roughe is probably my favorite with Le Samourai second. Also I’ve always felt Un Flic was very underrated.
From my own viewing there isn’t a Melville that fails, that isn’t pretty good. If you can name one, tell me, and I’ll not watch it.
ARMY OF SHADOWS, I thought, was pretty damn good.
I actually have a favorite scene from Melville. It’s the one in Le Cercle Rouge where Yves Montand is having the DT’s and lizards come creeping out of the woodwork and crawl up on his chest. It’s like a painter putting a huge splash of paint in exactly the right part of the canvas.
Has anyone scene LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES? Does Melville’s signature come through in that film or is it displaced by Cocteau’s? Is it a good film anyway?
Le Samourai is my personal favorite of his, and I think it’s his most polished, both stylistically and contentually; there’s a sort of narrative necessity in all the events and such that take place.
However, I think that Army of Shadows is Melville’s best work, primarily because of the scale and control that he exhibits in the film. In the film Melville uses all the technical/narrative tricks (optical printing, etc…) he used in all of his films in addition to shooting on location for almost everything. Finally, in the work there’s a poetry to it that I feel his other works don’t quite have; spoilers take for example the sequence when Gerbier escapes from the chateau early in the film: After having stabbed a german officer in the jaw, Gerbier allows a blade to come close to his own in a sort of bleak trust. This quality (as it is found in various places in the film) is what I think distinguishes it from his other pictures.
I have seen Les Enfants Terribles, and it is identifiably Melvillian, however I don’t feel that it’s entirely his work; because I know Melville, I can see that it’s his work, but if I didn’t know better, I don’t know who it would belong to, I thought. The film itself was not bad, I would rather see Bob Le Flambeur or Blood of a Poet but that’s just me.
That is TOTALLY my favorite scene as well! When I first saw that I couldn’t stop laughing. I remember saying to myself “man this dude is really, really drunk.”
I think Les Enfants Terribles is a true collaboration and a great film. I read the book recently (a very quick read, by the way), and it only enhanced my feelings of the film as a true collaborative effort.
“army of shadows” is his masterwork. its an epic historical tragedy in the style of a b-film. plus its the summit of his aesthetic.
Ok so, I just recently decided to spend my 2hr daily commute to work on the train watching the Melville films I have, which are basically all the ones on CC. I can’t really honestly say that one sticks out as the supreme masterpiece as each and every single one is extremely worth watching. I really enjoyed Army of Shadows (of course, it’s impossible not to like this). I found that Le Cercle Rouge was soooo much more interesting to me when I was alert and focused on it, and I’d seen it about 5x at this point…so that one skipped ahead on the list I suppose. Le Samorai is absolutely sublime really.
Rather than pick the “best” one in my opinion, I think it would be far easier to pick the “worst” one. There are too many great ones, but I’d have to say that Les Enfants Terribles is my least favorite of his films. I find that when I watch it, the imagery and dialogue and basically everything is so dripping in Cocteau it’s hard for me to see past. Granted, that’s a tragic flaw for me…but when I think Melville I don’t think of this particular title first. HOWEVER, I absolutely adore that film with every fiber of my being. But if someone held a gun to my head and made me tell you who’s film it was…I’d call it a Cocteau. Sorry.
I’d really like to own everything he directed. Is that possible? Is anything out of print, or impossible to find?
i actually think all of his films are in print. maybe except “two men in manhattan”, but i’m not even sure about that one.
2 hour commute to work? man oh man, i sure dont miss those days. the days where i spent 2 hours driving to and from work every day. done and done. my friends, i’m here to tell you. life’s WAY too short for that.
KAZU WATANABE: for me, “Les Enfants Terribles” is clearly a Cocteau movie perfectly enhanced by Melville’s directing. So, yes, more Cocteau than Melville. In fact, I consider it to be the best Cocteau film.
Securely on my Ten Favorite Films Of All Times list.
Le Cercle Rouge was the first I watched and for me is still the best. I love Bob Le Flambeur too though.
One of my absolute favourite directors.
“Army of Shadows” is superb, but no mention of “Léon Morin, prêtre” yet? Great movie, with superb work from Belmondo.
I’m not sure which of his I’d consider the best, but Le Doulos (1962) is probably his most underrated. The complicated plot had me sucked in throughout, and I adored the two main characters, portrayed by Belmondo and Serge Reggiani. The feeling he created in that movie is superb.
I am not a big fan of Melville, but I think that his masterwork is The Red Circle
I don’t know what it is about it, but in Le Doulos where Reggiani is flicking a coin with his thumb over three other coins (in his friends house that he murders) I was just fixated by it and forgot to watch a few seconds of the film. As soon as it had finished, I found four coins and learnt how to do it.
Daft I know, but it is things like that which I love about film.
I’ve been on a Melville jag lately, so this is an interesting thread to see. It’s too soon for me to name a favorite, though I thoroughly enjoyed Army of Shadows (sick as it sounds to say you enjoyed it, in a way) and Les Doulos the most. So far my favorite aspects are the photography, sets and the soulfulness of the actors. The big monologue of commisar Blot at the beginning of Le Deuxieme Souffle is a hoot. His dedication to Americana in his films (even his name) inspires me to check out some of his American models, like Wyler. But this jag is on.
I love all the Melville films I’ve seen. If I had to chose a favorite, it would be “Le Samourai”. But that’s my problem! Not yours! Haha.
I haven’t seen “Quand tu liras cette letre”, “L’ Aine Ferchaux”, “Deux Hommes dans la Ville” and the short “24 Hours in the Life of a Clown”. Anybody knows where can I find them. I MUST see every Melville film. It’s like an addiction.
CINESNAG, do you see the movies in a laptop? Please, tell me it’s not on a 2-inch ipod screen!
Le Cercle Rouge. There are a couple moments in that film so much more riveting than any crime film made before or since.
Army of Shadow was absolutely excellent, you’ll still hear parts of that incredible soundtrack on Peugeot adverts these days. It’s not my “favourite,” but his best, yes, in my oppinion. Next come the “gangster movies.” Le samouraï, Le cercle rouge, Le dulos, Un flic were all true classics. One very major and underrated of his movies (and one of the most uncharacteristic) is Léon Morin, prêtre. Definately a great watch, reminded me just a little bit of Bresson’s earlier movies.
All of Melville’s films are great. Army of Shadows and Le Samourai are masterpieces, to which I’d say AoS is slightly better. Whoever said Le Doulos is Melville’s most underrated is correct.
Leon Morin, Priest is his best in my opinion. It won’t do much good to say anything else, because the movie can’t be found…at least on R1. Rumor has it that Rialto would be releasing it, but I read that over a year ago after seeing a print of it at the Gene Siskel Film Center, and so far nothing. If nothing else, Leon Morin, Priest has an amazing, against-type performance by Belemondo. It also has the most convincing religious conversion I’ve seen in a movie.
Melville is incredibly underrated, Army of Shadows I feel is his best then Red Circle and then Leon Morin Pretre. It’s a real shame that Un Flic is brought down by the really shit special effects, it really does make that film awkward to watch. I still desperately need to see Le Samurai, there still isn’t a region 2!
I still desperately need to see Le Samurai, there still isn’t a region 2!
I find that hard to believe, especially given Melville is… French (and thus Region 2).
It also has the most convincing religious conversion I’ve seen in a movie.
This is very true. It reminds me a little of Bresson in strange way. Leon Morin, Priest is definately one of his least characteristic movies and one of the most underrated. It’s a shame it’s not available in R1.
see I’m not making it up, I really want to see it but it seems to be out of print
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I agree with most that Army of Shadows is his best. Le Samourai is insanely watchable but there are a few moments that are so corny that I can’t place it above Army. Un Flic has a great opening but doesn’t hold up all the way through for me. I need a second look at Les Enfants Terribles and I have never seen Leon Morin, Priest.
I’m a big Melville fan so I gotta say Le Doulos
@Anonymouse. I bought an R2 copy last year, so they do exist. Or take a look on amazon.fr and check for copies with English subs.
And with respect to the OP, I’d say Army of Shadows is his peak, while Le Samourai is the most enjoyable for me. And name one corny moment .