Le Doulos (1962)

24 03 2008

Not one of Melville’s better efforts, but still decent enough. It never really sheds it’s film noir sensibility which prevents it from becoming anything genuinely great. Instead, it works as a well-crafted piece of escapist entertainment. It drags on occasion but that is more than likely due to my inexperience and lack of interest in film noir. If you’re a fan of Melville and the cast (which includes a cameo by a young Phillipe Nahon from I Stand Alone) then this is a must. At the same time, don’t expect any high art, it’s purely “time-passing” entertainment, but pretty good at that.

Recent released from prison, Maurice Faugel attends to some unfinished business, which means killing an old buddy, Gilbert Varnove. Back home, he is visited by Silien who provides him with some tools for the robbery he is planning. Silien is actually a police informer and the robbery ends up being a bust, which results in the death of a police officer. Maurice escapes, at least for the time being, and Silien (for whatever reason) is brought in for interrogation. Maurice is placed back in prison, and Silien escapes to reunite with an old flame, Fabienne, who helps him frame the officer’s murder.

There may not be a purpose in pointing out flaws here, since by default, the film’s plot-driven, one-dimensional characterization is enough to ride it off completely. But taking it as mindless entertainment, it still has some problems. For one, the plot, essentially is too complicated. Not to mention that almost every dialogue sequences is shamelessly expositional and seem to go on for far too long. Perhaps these are just elements of every “film noir” but they are still intrusive, even when not taking the film 100% seriously. On the positive side, this is a bit more humorous than Melville’s norm, which would indicate that perhaps he isn’t taking this 100% seriously, either. The film is quite a bit of fun, but it’s frustrating knowing that Melville is a director that is capable of doing more. At this point in his career, he had already done plenty of light film-noir homages.

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