Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sporadic indeed

I've seen quite a bit since SFIFF, but the film I just saw this afternoon at the Castro inspired me to recommend it. Le Doulos This Jean Pierre-Melville gangster mystery, a precursor to his more well-known Le Samouraï and Le Cercle Rouge, is a delicious little bit of noir. The star, Jean-Paul Belmondo (always associated, for me, with Breathless), doesn't appear for the first ten or fifteen minutes, and when he does, his purpose is shadowy. It takes the unfolding of the narrative, involving jewel theft, backstabbing, and police informants (the title, we're told in a bit of text at the beginning, is slang among criminals for a snitch) for the true fit of the characters with each other to become clear. Besides the excellent plotting, Melville and his cinematographer make great use of shadowy locations to mask the men's faces: Belmondo is more recognizable by his trench coat than anything else. And several striking long takes, including a tracking shot that opens the movie and is echoed later, and a pair of scenes at police headquarters which follow the characters round and round the room, come through beautifully in this new print. Well worth seeing on the big screen, for sure. In short, highly recommended.

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