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Le Cercle Rouge
BLU-RAY disk
Apr 14, 2011 By: Mathew Plale
Le Cercle Rouge order
Director:
Jean-Pierre Melville

Actors:
Alain Delon
Gian Maria Volont
Yves Montand

Rating:
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Extras:
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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A former jailbird, a prison escapee and an alcoholic ex-cop get involved in a jewelry store heist in Jean-Pierre Melville's classic.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: 'When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle.

This is that red circle, occupied by three doomed souls: Corey (Alain Delon), fresh out of prison; recent escapee Vogel (Gian Maria Volont); and an ex-policeman with a habit for the bottle (Yves Montand). At the center of the circle is a no risk job--though theres never such a thing. Not in Jean-Pierre Melvilles cinema.

Le cercle rouge (1970), Melvilles penultimate film (he died just three years after at age 55), is exactly what a genre picture needs to be to stand out: smart. Its reminiscent of Jules Dassins Rififi (1955), another classic of the genre that no doubt inspired Melvilles own 30-minute robbery. The film simmers slowly, using every second of its 140-minute running time to build the suspense in an unnerving quiet.

This is what made Melville a master. His films, the best of which involve gangsters, capers and pure stoicism, are so calculated and precise in their execution. There is no need (or budget, really) for the loud and overbearing gunplay, exaggerated chase scenes or costly explosions--all cheats for excitement--that bust their way into American movies.

Le cercle rouge is the heist film done right. No gun is fired without cause. No line of dialogue is spoken without reason. No frame is shown that should have been cut. It is skillful and without misstep--an example of what the genre can and should be.
THE EXTRAS
Cinastes de notre temps (27:19): These excerpts from an episode of the French television series, which aired in July 1971, has Melville discussing a variety of topics, including his work habits and his passion for cinema. Included is footage of Melville at his home, where he is stamped here as a recluse.

Pour le cinema (5:19): Originally aired in March 1970, this episode of the French series contains interviews with Melville, as well as actors Alain Delon, Yves Montand and Bourvil conducted on the set of Le cercle rouge.

Midi magazine (4:37): This episode of the French television series first aired in May 1970 and has Melville and Delon discussing Le cercle rouge, with the latter concluding that, I know exactly what Melville wants and expects from me, and I think I give it to him.

Vingt-quatre heures sur la deux (3:43): Originally aired in October 1970, this footage also has the director and Delon fielding questions about the film, this time from host France Roche.

Morceauz de bravura (9:49): These excerpts from the French series, which aired in May 1973 (three months before Melvilles death) and was directed by Jean-Paul Sassy, has Melville talking about his influences (Asphalt Jungle, Odds Against Tomorrow), his characters and more. Also included are clips from Le cercle rouge.

Bernard Stora (30:14): Recorded in 2003, assistant director Stora sits down to discuss a number of topics on Melville, including the first time they met, the directors admiration for America, his habit as a night owl, the Melville system, and much more.

Rui Nogueira (26:14): Here, the author of 1971s Melville on Melville sits down with film historian Robert Fischer for an interview conducted in 2003.

Trailers

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a 24-page booklet with an essay titled Great Blasphemies by film critic/author Michael Sragow, an excerpt from Melville on Melville, an interview with composer Eric Demarsan, and an essay titled What is the Red Circle? by film critic/author Chris Fujiwara, and a tribute from director John Woo.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Jean-Pierre Melville's Le cercle rouge is one of the finest examples of the heist film and so anyone who is a fan of the genre deserves to see it. While there is some controversy concerning the video presentation and the Studio Canal Blu-ray is more accurate in that respect, this is still a strong disc thanks to the special features.
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1:50PM on 04/14/2011
Recently caught this film on Netflix and loved it. I'm slowly working my way through the Melville canon, with Bob Le Flambeur, Le Samourai, and Le Doulos. This ranks right up there with the best of them. As a noir junkie, it's interesting to watch how the French took American crime staples and were able to inject enough style into it to inspire a whole new generation. This one is very reminiscent of Rififi, but more deliberate. Everything about this movie seems to be in service of its style.
Recently caught this film on Netflix and loved it. I'm slowly working my way through the Melville canon, with Bob Le Flambeur, Le Samourai, and Le Doulos. This ranks right up there with the best of them. As a noir junkie, it's interesting to watch how the French took American crime staples and were able to inject enough style into it to inspire a whole new generation. This one is very reminiscent of Rififi, but more deliberate. Everything about this movie seems to be in service of its style. And any young actor looking to sidestep the pitfall of getting type-cast as the pretty boy would do well to watch Alain Delon's movies. Particularly for the time, he was maybe the best-looking badass around.
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