In this second vision of the film, perhaps for its extraordinary opening sequence, the escape from prison, I thought about how much and by different forms and ways, Melville has an approach to the matters of film similar to Bresson: although with professional actors, what is intended from them is a body-voice adequacy of their psychologist emptying and the sound is image's greater concreteness, almost without music.
The last film Melville shot in black and white is firmly in the traditional mould; a brilliantly executed violent crime thriller. But scratch beneath the surface and what we really have is a minimalist study of loneliness - a theme repeated in Le Samouraï - in which a career criminal becomes more than a little tired of his life of crime. This is a fabulous film; a rich and razor-sharp foray into Melville's universe..
Of all genres, the crime drama is the greatest for me. Like most movie genres it's based on escape from our safe reality, but in every city men kick in doors, fire guns and slit throats, and at movies like this one the distance between us and death, us and riches, us and those men is shortened in a way it can never be with cowboys or aliens. It's the dark, inviting middle ground between fantasy and realism.
This is perhaps the film that would give birth to Melville's gangster genre style with Le Samourai and Red Circle following this. A lot of Melvilleisms in this film like focusing on Trenchcoats, fedoras and luggage. In this film also there's a great use of zooming and panning out, something of a legacy from the French new wave, you don't really see in films today.
Stylish crime drama from director Jean-Pierre Melville unfortunately just never really takes off. It's slow-paced and talky much of the time, and the plot is too murky and the characters not lively enough to be really compelling. It is a well-made film, and stylish in that very French way, but it is too dry and overlong to develop the suspense it should.