martes, 13 de octubre de 2009

Le Deuxième Souffle

Le Deuxième Souffle (The Criterion Collection DVD, 2008)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
France, 1966
In French with English subtitles

Although I haven't posted about a movie here in months, I guess this is as good a place as any to announce that I'll be coming out of retirement for a half-dozen or so DVD reviews to fulfill my contractual obligations for this year's Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge.  First up is Jean-Pierre Melville's 1966 Le Deuxième Souffle (Second Wind), a bleak French gangster flick that follows aging fugitive Gu Minda (Lino Ventura) from Paris to Marseille as he tries to escape the arrogant Inspector Blot (Diabolique's Paul Meurisse) as the clock of his life winds down.  While all the usual Melville themes (destiny, friendship, honor, violence) and trademark flourishes (a highly-orchestrated robbery, existential gunplay) make their morally ambiguous appearances here, something about the film feels a little flat despite a standout cast and some edgy scenes involving abusive police interrogation techniques that were supposedly altered for being too similar to what the French army was doing in Algeria at the time.  Is it worth seeing?  Sure.  But if you're new to Melville, you have got to check out 1967's Le Samouraï, 1969's L'Armée des ombres (Army of Shadows) or 1970's Le Cercle rouge first to understand why this uncompromising cinéaste was once known as "the father of the New Wave" and "the poet of the underworld."  In the meantime, I'll now go back to enjoying that handsome Criterion cover art that has made this blog look positively Positif throughout the duration of this post!  (

Jean-Pierre Melville

More on Melville:
Le Doulos (1962)

2 comentarios:

  1. It's so funny that this movie title exists, because David and I have a joke about an imaginary French noir called "La deuxième chaussette," which we start imitating whenever I'm knitting the second half of a pair of socks. "Cet hiver...les secrets de la pègre que tu n'as jamais prévus...LA DEUXIEME CHAUSETTE." It looks like our instincts about parodying French gangster cinema were right on the money!

    And man, the completist in me looooves Criterion Collection editions.

  2. Criterion rocks, Emily! Just ask my credit card provider. :( My bad nickname for this movie is The Twelfth Soufflé, a tribute of sorts to my inability to distinguish the sounds for "second" and "twelfth" in spoken French. I had to look up your word "pègre," by the way, so thank you for introducing me to a new term for "light-fingered gentry," which is always useful. Bon week-end!