Le Cercle Rouge (1970)

Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville

I saw this with Grace, Penny and Renee. Renee liked this; Grace seemed to like this, too; and Penny seemed undecided. I didn’t care for it that much. Mitchell, Kevin and Chris might like this, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was something they could pass on. I wouldn’t recommend this to Joel, Jill or Don. I saw this as at the Academy of Arts, part of the Friends of Film Friday series. (You got a free glass of wine and Da Spot offered entres of Middle Eastern food.)

Corey (Alain Delon) is a convict who is helped by a prison guard to get out of prison so that he can rob a jewelry store. By chance he meets a recently escaped suspect Vogel (Gian Maria Volente) and, for no reason, decides to help him. They both team up to steal the jewels, bringing in another accomplice for the job, Jansen (Yves Montand), a former police officer. Detective Mattei, the man whom Vogel escapes from, is hot on their trail. This a French film noir. I preferred others like Le Trou or Rififi or Bob le Flambeur

Here are some of the problems I had with the film. First of all, it was very slow, especially in the beginning. Now, I’ve heard some people like the deliberative quality of these scenes, but my question is what is achieved by this? Just because it’s radically different from mainstream Hollywood doesn’t make the approach meritorious by itself. I didn’t think this slow approach–showing characters doing mundane things–added anything to the film, with the exception of some of the more suspenseful moments. (I also thought the use of natural ambient sounds in the heist scenes were good. But that was my favorite part of the film.)

The other problem I had was with the main characters particularly the actors that played Corey (Did the French think this was a cool or tough name?) and Mattei weren’t that appealign to me. I’m not a big fan of Alain Delon in general. Yes, he’s good looking, but that’s about all he is. He’s just a pretty boy with no substance–no inner toughness, charisma or cool. On the other hand, the guy who plays Mattei, Bourvil, is old–and not convincing as a super smart detective. He’s just not appealing. (He reminded me of Art Linklater or Ralph Bellamy.)

Finally, I think there’s this whole poseur wannabe aspect to the filmmaking, particularly the characters, that weakened the film, imo. I’m thinking specifically of the characters dressing in trench coats and acting like American cops and robbers of the 30s and 40s. This really felt out of place, especially since the sets of the film seem to be in the late 60s. The actors seemed like they were trying to hard to be American film noir characters.

On the positive side, I liked the heist scene, particularly the use of ambient sounds (mostly silence) and no score, but these were diminished by my already having seen Rififi and Le Trou, which had similar, but better executed scenes. I also liked the idea of the red circle–the meeting to two strangers because of fate or something mystical or unexplainable. Strangely, I didn’t have a problem with this aspect of this film.

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