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Le Cercle Rouge(1970)
A master thief, an alcoholic ex-cop and an escaped criminal plot a daring heist of an upmarket Parisian jewellery story against impossible odds.
For more about Le Cercle Rouge and the Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray release, see Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on September 30, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Writer: Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volontè, Yves Montand, Paul Crauchet, Paul Amiot
» See full cast & crew
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, September 30, 2010
Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Cercle Rouge" (1970) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include an introduction to the film by Prof. Ginette Vincendeau; "Code name: Melville", an in-depth look at the life and legacy of Jean-Pierre Melville; gallery of video interviews with assistant director Bernard Stora, writer Jose Giovanni; and writer Rui Nogueira; and the film's original French theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 20-page illustrated booklet. In French, with optional English, German, and French subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
There are three types of gangster films: bad, good, and those directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Le Cercle Rouge is one of the French director's very best films, starring legendary actors Alain Delon, Yves Montand, Bourvil, and Gian Maria Volonte.
The story of Le Cercle Rouge revolves around three men: Corey (Alain Delon, The Leopard, Borsalino), an aristocratic thief who has been in prison for five years; Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte, Faccia a faccia, Sacco & Vanzetti), a dangerous criminal who has been recently captured by the police; and Jansen (Yves Montand, The Wages of Fear, César and Rosalie), an ex-cop and sharpshooter who is slowly killing himself to death.
The night before Corey is released from prison a guard enters his cell and tells him that he has a job. It could make both of them rich - Corey would be able to retire while the guard would be able to walk away from his job. It sounds good, but Corey is not the man he used to be. He needs time to think. On the following day, Corey is released from prison. He immediately sees Rico (André Ekyan), his ex-boss, who owns him money. Corey takes Rico's money and gun, buys a car, and disappears.
Vogel and Commissar Mattei (Bourvil, Four Bags Full, The Hunchback of Paris) are on a train to Paris. Even though Vogel is handcuffed, he manages to escape. Mattei goes after Vogel but he covers his tracks and disappears in the countryside. A day later, he ends up on the parking lot of a small roadside restaurant where he jumps in the trunk of the first car he sees.
Corey is inside the restaurant having lunch. He sees Vogel getting in the trunk of his car. He finishes his lunch and then drives into a wide open, muddy field where he tells Vogel to get out. He does, pointing a gun at Corey. They talk and Corey offers to help Vogel get to Paris where he is going to be safe. Vogel jumps back in the trunk. Before they reach Paris, Corey's car is pulled over by two of Rico's men. Moments before they shoot Corey, Vogel jumps out of the trunk and kills them. The bodies of the dead men are left to rot.
In Paris, Corey and Vogel discuss the guard's job - robbing a prestigious jewelry store on the Place Vendome. Vogel likes the idea but tells Corey that they will need the assistance of a true professional. The man he has in mind is Jansen.
Corey and Jansen meet in the nightclub of a man the police has been monitoring for years - Santi (François Perier, Le samourai). Jensen agrees to help not because he needs money but because he needs a job to keep him away from the bottle. He begins training while Corey and Vogel get in touch with a shady dealer who is going to help them sell whatever it is they steal from the jewelry store on the Place Vendome.
Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in 1917, director Melville adopted his pseudonym as a tribute to novelist Herman Melville, whose Moby Dick is widely considered one of the greatest American novels. Director Melville was also involved with the French Resistance and after the end of WWII became obsessed with American cinema. In 1949, he directed his first feature film, Le silence de la Mer, about a German officer living in France during the Nazi occupation.
Le cercle rouge is a dark, stylish, notably minimalistic gangster film with fascinating characters. They are lonely, honorable men whose fates are predetermined. They smoke a lot and speak only when they have to. They kill only when they are attacked.
Another important aspect of Le Cercle Rouge is the fact that there are no women of interest in it. Neither the gangsters nor the cops talk about women. Instead of sumptuous romance the film offers an elaborate heist, approximately half an hour long.
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This high-definition transfer has been struck from a dated source. Nevertheless, it is a very good one. Generally speaking, fine object detail ranges from good to excellent, clarity is pleasing, and contrast levels a lot stronger than I expected them to be. The film's ambient color-scheme - a mix of light blues and a variety of grays - also looks surprisingly fresh. This said, mild edge-enhancement is occasionally noticeable. Macroblocking, however, is not an issue of concern. Traces of mild noise corrections are also present, but the film's grain structure is very much in tact. There are no serious stability issues. I also did not see any large scratches, marks, cuts, or splices to report in this review. All in all, this Blu-ray release does indeed represent a very strong upgrade over all previous releases of Le Cercle Rouge. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content. For the record, its main menu could be set in one of the following languages: English, French, or German).
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 and German DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English, German, and French subtitles for the main feature.
The French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is solid. The dialog is exceptionally crisp, clean, stable and easy to follow. There are no pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts. I also did not detect any balance issues with Eric Demarsan's music score. Understandably, the range of dynamics the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track possesses is limited, but the sound conveys natural depth and fluidity. The quality of the English translation is good.
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Introduction by Ginette Vincendeau - a long, very informative introduction to Le Cercle Rouge. Professor Vincendeau discusses the production history of Le Cercle Rouge, as well as Jean-Pierre Melville's fascination with American Cinema, unique style, and legacy. The introduction is licensed from the BFI. In English, with optional German and French subtitles. (22 min, PAL).
Code name: Melville - an in-depth look at the life and legacy of Jean-Pierre Melville, with fascinating observations by filmlmaker and critic Andre S. Labarthe, actor Pierre Grasset, and directors Johnnie To, Volker Schlondorff, and Bertrand Tavernier, amongst others. In French, with optional English and German subtitles. (77 min, PAL).
About Le cercle rouge:
Bernard Stora - Mr. Stora, who has worked primarily as an assistant director for Jean Eustache, Henri Verneuil, John Frankenheimer and Jean-Pierre Melville, and script-writer for Claude Miller and Georges Lautner amongst others, recalls his first encounter and consequent collaborations with Jean-Pierre Melville. In French, with optional English and German subtitles. (31 min, PAL).
Jose Giovanni - Mr. Giovanni wrote the script for Jean-Pierre Melville's Le deuxième souffle (Second Breath) in 1966. In this video interview, he recalls his work with the French director, as well as his legacy. In French, with optional English and German subtitles. (15 min, PAL).
Rui Nogueira - a video interview with Rui Nogueira, author of "Melville on Melville", produced for Criterion and conducted by Robert Fischer. In French, with optional English and German subtitles. (27 min, PAL).
Trailer - the original French theatrical trailer for Le Cercle Rouge. In French, with optional English and German subtitles. (2 min, PAL).
Booklet - a 20-page illustrated booklet with an essay by Ginette Vincendeau (the author is a Professor of Film Studies at King's College, London. Amongst her works on French cine are Stars and Stardom in French Cinema and Jean-Pierre Melville, An American in Paris).
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jean-Pierre Melville's gangster films do not have original plots. They have style - and plenty of it. Indeed, these films are so fascinating to behold because there is nothing like them. Le Cercle Rouge, arguably one of the French director's very best films, arrives on Blu-ray as part of the Studio Canal Collection, and courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The film looks very good, without a doubt the best it ever has. As expected, the disc also contains a number of terrific supplemental features. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Studio Canal September Wave Detailed - August 13, 2010
Confirming earlier reports, Optimum Home Entertainment has announced seven titles for Blu-ray release in the UK on September 13 as part of the Studio Canal Collection: Breathless (À bout de soufflé, Jean-Luc Godard, 1960); Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, ...
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