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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LE DOULOS (1962)

This typically fine gangster/noir from Jean-Pierre Melville features Jean-Paul Belmondo as a crook with contacts on both sides of the law who manages to stay loyal to all his personal associates, legit & non. The key to the tricky plot, about jewels & cash stolen from a murdered middleman, lies in Melville withholding a lot of explanatory info until all the events have been concluded or at least set into motion. A tactic that also sets up the final tragedy. Serge Reggiani, as the recidivist thief who starts the balls rolling in the riveting first two reels, actually has the larger role, but Belmondo is the moral & intellectual compass here. He gives Melville a sort of optimistic energy not found in his other projects which alters the tone of the pic and, to some extent, makes the typical Melville fatalism come across as forced rather than inevitable. Along with some oddly handled backscreen projection work, it places this pic just below Melville’s top-tier.

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