Le Cercle rouge

Le Cercle rouge (1970) movie poster

(1970) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville
viewed: 05/12/03 at Castro Theater, SF, CA

I’d actually been to see Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967) at the Castro Theater a couple of years ago, another slick post-New Wave crime flick, full of detached cool and studied Noir homage. Le Cercle rouge cut from a very similar cloth, still very hip and slick, and apparantly very influential as well. The new print of Le Cercle rouge was brought about in some way by John Woo, who is an avowed fan of Melville’s.

The jewel heist that is the centerpiece of this film, which last (I am speculating) like 40 minutes almost, is handled without a single spoken word. In an amusing comment on this, the inspector comments, upon viewing the videotape of the crime, that the thieves are not much for words. That self-reflective comment could easily apply to the entire film, which for its length and slow pacing, is incredibly economical with diaglogue. Narrative plays out almost entirely by visual means, with small pieces of exposition. The film is quite amazing in this aspect, really.

The characters are so cool and detached that when they meet their inevitable end, they do so with great fatalist inevitability.

I liked the weird bar at which the characters often rendezvoused, where there was always a strange stage show of 6-7 women dressed in identical period/stereotypical costumes and wigs, dancing to a hep jazz ensemble like robots. They were largely the only females in the film. The world of the film was one clearly inhabited solely by males, for as little dialogue as the main characters spoke, I don’t know if a single female voice uttered a word. There was one scene with an ex-girlfriend of Corey’s, who remained almost completely on the periphory of the action, behind a closed door while the main action of the scene transpired. For the rest of the film, she was relegated to discarded photographs. I don’t think that you need to be up on your feminist criticism to grasp the nature of this depiction.

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