In Revival and Streaming: “Le Cercle Rouge,” a Crime Thriller in Which Knowledge Is Power

When I first saw Jean-Pierre Melville‘s French crime drama “Le Cercle Rouge” (“The Red Circle”) decades ago, in a significantly shortened version that was circulating at the time, I found as a unique type of film – an automobile ballet. The Parisian gangsters at the center of the film roam the nation’s landscape in American limousines that seem to move with feline grace and plunge with panther-like force, and in heavy metal they embody the finely calculated mechanisms on which the criminal plans of history run. A full, one hundred and forty-minute version of the film was released in 2003, and it will be available in a new restoration from Friday at the Filmforum. (It’s also streamed on Amazon and other services.) In this longer version, vehicle majesty is still an important part of the movie’s joys. The regime of knowledge emerges even brighter, however, the intellectual infrastructure of criminality, which pervades society like an invisible grid and which Melville brings onto the screen in cool, analytical images with a kind of infrared camera.

This revival marks a strange coincidence in the New York repertoire program: like “Purple gold“, Which opens today on film in the virtual cinema of the Lincoln Center,” Le Cercle Rouge “revolves around a robbery in a jewelry store. Melville’s film fits into a specific tradition more directly than that of Jafar Panahi: It is a robbery in which the complex climax sequence of the extremely large theft lasts a majestic twenty-five minutes. It begins with a quick, nocturnal vehicle panic when the police, accompanied by high-ranking police commissioner Mattei (André Bourvil), hastily drive a suspect named Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté) to a train on the way to prison. Meanwhile, a convict named Corey (Alain Delon), who has been released from prison after serving a five-year sentence, receives a tip from a guard about a Parisian jewelry palace that is ripe for a robbery. Corey is freed and makes his way to Paris, Vogel escapes and the astute Corey – while being pursued by his gangland enemies – brings Vogel into the jewelry stores. Meanwhile, Mattei, whose job is at stake, swears to find and catch birds. To do this, he scours the nightly Parisian underworld and puts a nightclub owner and acquaintance of Vogel named Santi (François Périer) under pressure, who for his part vows never to betray.

The film is a game with several cats and mice in which the pursuers are chased and the tables turn with mercury amazement – and Melville captures these wonders of survival conception and execution in tight geometric ricochets and conveys them. (Home viewers will be grateful for the opportunity to double again and be amazed again.) Corey’s early confrontation with a mob boss named Rico (André Ekyan) depends on an amazing tidbit of knowledge and the courageous skill to respond quickly. A showdown at the pool table is a prime example of cinematic synekdoche; A deadly open field confrontation is one of the most exciting confrontations that turns the world upside down in one perfectly timed breath. The exchange of silent looks between Corey and Vogel, in the middle of a moment of deadly tension, is one of the highlights of criminal bromanticism. When it comes to the robbery, the duo recruits an alleged sniper, a former police officer named Jansen (Yves Montand), who turns out to be an equally astute, criminal mastermind whose accuracy – filmed with breathless sovereignty – actually involves several mechanical and scientific trades that are dramatized with pinched amazement.

The robbery itself is filmed in a magnificently enhanced cinematic showpiece that depicts, with impeccable logic, the meticulous craft of crime involved in breaking into, entering, vacuuming and leaving. But the robbery is oddly secondary to the vast mass of hard-earned knowledge on which the composition of the crime depends. This strange shift in emphasis makes “Le Cercle Rouge” one of Melville’s best – and most important – works. Many of his most famous films such as “Le Doulos” and “Le Samouraï” are stifled by the director’s tendency towards neoclassicism, a mixture of manners and formats of American crime novels, a vision so steadfast that it leaves no room for anything World goes on, let alone the inner workings of its protagonists. But in the machinations of Mattei – who in turn is the target of machinations of the chief of police’s internal affairs department (Paul Amiot) – Melville goes beyond the macabre fun of crime and ponders the incessant punishment. His vision of the power of statecraft, from its tentacle surveillance to its prison system, is a terrible, fatalistic realism that overshadows the romance of individualistic outlaws with the bureaucratic grid above the grid. It’s a metapolitical view of the government that tacitly conveys something like a political philosophy: Don’t bet against the house.

New York favorites

Source link


Read Previous

Will anything change for Black men, police?

Read Next

Mo Farah falls short in Tokyo Olympics qualification bid at British Championships

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *