Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

French gangster flicks

French gangster films of the Fifties and Sixties are often said to be derivative of their American film noirs, but its a genre I can return to happily many times, in the company of directors like Meville and Duvivier, and those players who sum it all up: Gabin, Delon, Belmondo, Hossein,Vidal ...
I particuarly like Henri Verneuil's 1963 MELODIE EN SOUS SOL (or THE BIG SNATCH) where old lag Jean Gabin comes out of prison with one last heist in mind, on a Cannes casino, and hires impulsive, if not reckless, young hotshot Delon to help it. Its taut, tense, the raid goes ok, and then there is that climax at the swimming pool with the bag of swag... 

The daddy of all French heist movies must be Dassin's RIFIFI in 1955, with that long central silent robbery carried out in real time (Dassin did it again, more colourfully in his 1964 TOPKAPI); one of the RIFIFI guys Robert Hossein directed a lot of tense thrillers too, superior B-movies perhaps, but try looking away from  THE WICKED GO TO HELL or  TOI, LE VENIN or UNE MANCHE ET LA BELLE. (Hossein label).   
Jean-Pierre Melville's taut, spare, acerbic thrillers like 1967's LE SAMOURAI (Delon as ice cool killer - see review, Delon label), and his exemplary ARMY OF SHADOWS in 1969 are masterworks, and we like LE CERCLE ROUGE too (Delon, Montand, Ventura) and the delightfully silly THE SICILIAN CLAN where hi-jacking an airliner in flight seems so easy, as Delon and Gabin again team and fall out while seen-it-all cop Ventura is on their trail ....  
We also particularly like Duvivier' CHAIR DE POULE (HIGHWAY PICKUP) that jet-black noir from 1963 with hoods Hossein and Jean Sorel (both in their 80s now and still going, as indeed are Delon and Belmondo) fall out over that robbery and a duplicitous dame. Its brilliant: as per:

Rene Clement scored here too, as with his masterwork PLEIN SOLEIL and with Delon again in LES FELINS in 1963.  Get a Delon or Belmondo or Melville boxset and enjoy. Malle's LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD too in 1958 ... while Alain and Belmondo are great fun in BORSALINO (left) in 1970.
Below: Sorel and Hossein in CHAIR DE POULE, 1963 - and, right, in 2015.

1 comment:

  1. I am a great fan of French gangster films, particularly Melville's work. I just wish L'HOMME DU RIO was available in Region 2 with subtitles. I've seen it in Spain but not with English sub-titles.