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4,196 Ratings

Le cercle rouge

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
France, Italy, 1970
Crime, Drama, Thriller


A skilled thief who lives in studied elegance when he’s not languishing in jail plans an elaborate jewellery-store heist with two cohorts picked up almost at random: a notorious escaped convict and an alcoholic ex-cop. With a dogged inspector on their tail, they face impossible odds.

Our take

The perfect crime? No—but perhaps the perfect crime movie! Jean-Pierre Melville’s star-studded (Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Gian Maria Volontè) heist film is the peak of the director’s ritualistic, nearly fetishistic paean to cops and robbers, influencing everyone from Michael Mann to Johnnie To.

Le cercle rouge Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
The apocalypse, when it comes, will not be in a ball of fire, the rising of the seas, or locusts descending. It will be three people, who did everything right, pierced by a thousand bullets like St. Sebastian’s arrows. Le Cercle Rouge is the closest Jean-Pierre Melville got to his ideal, a mix of Jacques Becker’s Le Trou and Bresson’s Pickpocket, a blue-gray nocturnal reconnoitering of the flimsy chains keeping men in their place.
May 03, 2017
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The metaphysical impulses already evident in Le samouraï burst into blossom in Le cercle rouge (1970), an existentialist noir painted with the cold hues of grey, blue and green where the only warm touch is the red of blood, of death. Dialogues are reduced to a minimum as Melville displays his iconographic mastery throughout having condensed noir into an immanent palette where images are more expressive words.
May 02, 2017
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It is a wholly cinematic work, in that characterization results of fetishized, highly choreographed movement. LE CERCLE ROUGE climaxes with a 25-minute, dialogue-free robbery scene where every action carries extreme consequence—a bold attempt on Melville’s part to “outdo” a similar sequence from Jules Dassin’s RIFIFI. But where Dassin’s achievement stands out from the film around it, Melville’s seems the culmination of a very personal style.
November 18, 2011
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