We conclude our dalliance with Jean-Pierre Melville with 1970’s Le Cercle rouge, a heist film with an impressive cast of Alain Delon, Gian Maria Volonté, and Yves Montand. We discuss how genre conventions operate in the film – the shortcuts an understanding of genre provides allow details to make the difference, Mike suggesting that it all comes out through character relationships and quirks.
In discussing Le Cercle rouge, we think back on what we’ve learned about Melville’s style, themes and interests. For Melville, emotional attachment is dangerous and makes one vulnerable; it’s a rather bleak outlook, but José argues that his films aren’t without their romantic aspects. Mike remarks upon the way in which Melville’s style has been interpreted and appropriated by the filmmakers he influenced, noting that the vivacity with which, for instance, Quentin Tarantino effuses about Melville is not reflective of Melville’s films themselves, which are slower and more pensive than you might be led to expect. To José, it’s existentialist cinema through and through, and, naturally, he loves it.
We visit Z, a French-Algerian political thriller from 1969. It also happens to be a bona fide classic that won a ton of awards, enjoyed great popularity, and even succeeded in markets where it was subtitled or dubbed. Neither of us has seen it before; both of us are glad our first encounter with it is on a cinema screen.
We discuss its relevance to society today – the reason the mac is screening it, no doubt – the precision and economy of its editing and storytelling, its control of information, its title, its geographical setting, its surprising sense of humour, and indeed something we both found left rather a bad taste in the mouth. We also run down the eleven films from 1969 that outperformed it at the US box office, and José learns about The Stewardesses.
The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.