|Title:||Le Deuxieme Souffle|
|12.10.20||DVD||This Screening is part of event: DVRfest 2020|
This year I've got spine numbers between 109 and 1057 to choose from, but after several years of this exercise I'm finally starting to winnow these blind buys down. However, it's also tradition around these parts to sprinkle in 1 move that I've seen before along with all the new-to-me films that I'm catching up on, so this year I've filled out the d20 with select criterion discs of movies I wouldn't mind watching again (it seems like the only physical purchases I make any more are criterion blus of movies I already like), so we'll leave that up to fate as well. There are still a few heavy investments in this stack like a silent film and a 4-hour opus so we'll see what we get and how many we can get through before the night is through.
The first roll selected this Melville movie. I've really liked almost every other Melville movie that I've seen and it's been quite a while since I've watched a French noir so I'm excited. It also carries a typical Melville running time though so we'll see how that goes.
Well that was long. I think that Melville at his best shows these deliberate nuanced portrayals of criminals and their procedure that slowly build to a very satisfying climax that pays off how deliberately paced the rest of the movie is. This one gets there but it's a bit shaggy... just shy of being perfectly focused. Maybe the adaptation from the novel was too faithful? Like, you kind of don't need the first hour of this film. Then 90 minutes in I thought "why is there an hour left in this movie?" But then the last hour is really pretty good. The last 90 minutes were really pretty good, but it's a formula that I believe Melville pulls off better with Le Cercle Rouge. Maybe had I seen this first I would've been more blown away since there is quite a lot of good stuff here.
One thing I liked was how quaint and civilized all of the criminals were. I suspect this movie stands out because the character of police inspector Blot was maybe one of the first the play in the gray area between law and the criminals he's out to catch. It's a character that's basically in every crime movie these days and I think it might be illegal to make a Yakuza film without one, but here there's even a preface saying something about how Blot's actions are not indicative of all police. And it's funny to think that a taped voice recording is not enough to incriminate someone but a random scribbled note can somehow exonerate someone? This movie is filled with little touches of etiquette between criminals that I suppose created a fantasy of the honorable criminal that stuck around for quite a while.
You can definitely tell it's 55 years old though. Much of the movie is very slow and very quiet, but it's still a Melville movie where sooner or later stuff happens and by then you've been watching these people for long enough to be invested with them. Having sat through his first film in a past DVRfest, I know this technique is something he had to find and hone. So if Le Cercle Rouge is an A+, this is the B+ precursor.