StudioCanal release on 23rd November
In the unlikely event that I will be deemed good enough to enter heaven, I will spend my time there running an arts centre comprising a concert hall, cinema and a bar well stocked with real ales and good wines.
And, as programmer of events, I will ensure that there will be a regular selection of the films of Jean-Pierre Melville. After all, this is heaven, so the patrons deserve the best.
And very few films will appear on the programme as often as Le Cercle Rouge. An utterly superb heist movie, it sees Melville at the peak of his powers, with the perfect cast in Delon, Volonte, Montand and Bourvil.
Three diverse characters- a gentleman thief (Delon), a man on the run (Volonte) and an alcoholic ex-policeman (Montand) come together to carry out an almost impossible jewel heist. To get away with it, they need not only meticulous planning and execution, but have to evade the attentions of a dogged police inspector (Bourvil).
Remarkable warmth is generated by the characters, given that the dialogue is relatively sparse. The relationships between the three men, and with their adversary, are unforced and come across as natural and believable, a tribute to the skills of both cast and Director.
Dialogue goes from minimal to non-existent during the robbery sequence – 25 minutes with not a word said as the tension mounts. Melville wanting to outdo Dassin’s Rififi? Perhaps. But the style and tone are pure Melville.
A film to watch again and again, it never grows old, and nor does its influence on those who have followed in Melville’s footsteps.
This comes as a two-disc set, the second disc containing Olivier Bohler’s documentary Codename: Melville, an Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau and two interviews, one with assistant director Bernard Stora and the other with scriptwriter Jose Giovanni, all of which add insight to both the man and the film.