They just don't make 'em like they used to: neither the films nor 'les flambeurs'. There have been numerous noir films and countless heist films, but few of them match the panache of Melville's near-flawless mid-fifties gem. The contrast between Roger Duchesne's smooth, refined Bob and Daniel Cauchy's crass, inept Paolo tells in the brilliant ending (with echoes of Casablanca). Remade as 'The Good Thief' in 2002.
I often find myself asking how much one scene means to a movie. This is a very engrossing film, evoking the midnight world of gamblers and crooks in post-war Paris. You get tough guys in cool suits, cigarette smoke wafting in shadows, and tests of loyalty - the good stuff. But the very end is so wrong in tone that it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. How can I say I like a move when I think the ending is so terrible?
My first Mubi watch! Jean-Pierre Melville really was "an American in Paris" — this owes a lot (and gave a lot) to American Crime films. The melodrama aspects were more than a little sexist, but the whole movie is so damn stylish. Worth the watch for Melville completionism.
From the director of "Le Samourai", this stylish heist film is an existential drama in itself. He has a young protegee (of course) and a young girlfriend (of course), but neither of them can live up to Bob's idealistic view of them. The film is all about how Bob teaches life lessons to his younger friends, how life never fails to surprise and thwart the best laid plans, and how our own ghosts never quite leave us.
Bob is not a stinker, but it's a bore, which is absolutely rude for a supposed "comedy of manners" per Melville's own designation. While beautifully shot, BleF is a disappointment for this Melville fan. Aside from the unexpected turn in the film's last quarter, the rest of the affair is entirely forgettable, which can't be said of his other major works.
Smooth talking tuxedoed gangsters, casinos and card games, an intricate heist plot, even with a touch of high tech safe cracking, this could be a template for every James Bond and Oceans 11+ movie to come after. Betrayal lies around every corner and most women can’t be trusted, but things never descend into moralizing or moroseness. A game for gamblers, both sides of the coin are heads.
There's a sort of synchronization that happens early on in the film with Music and Moment that allows There's a sort of synchronization that happens early on in the film with Music and Moment that allows Melville to effortlessly glide through the movie. There's always a sense of forward motion, even if the narrative isn't providing it.
Ah, the elegance of casinos before the neon lit all-you-can-eat $9.95 buffet with obese Americans chowing down. Great editing gets us in and out fast. Loved the casting--each face full of character. Great score. Super camera angles. Enormous markers! And a textbook example of the meaning of "femme fatale."
Breathless didn't spring fully formed from Godard—it gestated here, in freewheeling gangster flicks that could make an academic cinephile like JLG want to prove that all these tropes were loaded with existential import. As for Melville, he's a proud entertainer. Why does Bob go on, when so much cries "stop!"? Maybe it's just money, maybe Melville needs a plot. Or maybe it's a metaphor for a human condition after all.
Contrary to the precision we associate with Melville, Bob is awash with the chance elements of gambling. Not card counting or heist planning but gambling, letting the cards (and rogue people) dictate destiny. As such this is a treat of variables and missed opportunities, a low-stakes character study treated to Melville's particular blend of world-weary fatalism. 3.5
DCP, re-rating. Early on, in its beginning, there's a foreshadowing of what this film aims. A self-expository and demiurgic use of a narrator's voice over panoramic images of a city by night: a self-conscious narrative that brings together characters-type and situations-cliché in order to mutate them into a diffuse nonchalant narrativity, casually relaxed with its own device. Cinematography by Henri Decaë.
It's hard not to be jealous of the French. They don't have the same constraints the American gangster films do. They can deal with mature themes and don't have to be morally righteous in the end. American films of this era are about simple black and white morality. The French treat you like an adult, where there's a lot more grey.