With a riveting opening sequence of a seaside bank robbery, Melville continues to unfold a reticent struggle between an alienated inspector and a slick gang of robbers. Reticent is also the remaining of the film with some great set-pieces (although not the train robbery scene) -many must have beeen an inspiration for subsequent US heist movies- understated performances and atmospheric social cloudiness. Good.
What cops learn to feel towards civilians is indifference and scorn, says the opening epigram. Any real-world look at that thin blue line will have to wait, because for better or worse we're in Melville-land: a place of influential pure genre cool (the cheesy train gets a pass) where cops might feel less honor/empathy than crooks. It's a shame Melville died prematurely after making this; he clearly had more in him.
Variations on familiar Melvillian themes which lacks the broader canvases of previous crime homages, perhaps instead distilling the idolatry to brass tacks, if not purity. The continuation - or sadly conclusion - of the gorgeously dour colour palette of blue-hued stylisations brings an Autumnal chill to the eternal man-alone theme so gorgeously captured in Delon’s watery beauty.
I understand that there are people who can suspend disbelief regarding the heist on the train sequence, but I'm not one of them. The first heist scene was fine, so why ruin it all with toy trains and a toy helicopter? It was such a long scene to sit through in the first place. In the end what are we really left with? Sighing and ennui.
Is there a way out of this formalist masterpiece of misogyny suiscide betrayal futility? I doubt it but will go back to Fassbinder Chabrol Rohmer ect to revise who is the best social realist of the present? Apart from Mike Liegh / ken loach, Archipelago captured a very banal tonality but turned it in to a very tense shocker