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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 March 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volontè, Yves Montand, Paul Crauchet, Paul Amiot
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
» See full cast & crew
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 17, 2011
Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Cercle Rouge" (1970) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc contain two trailers for the film; archival footage from various French television series, including Cineastes de notre temps and Morceaux de bravoure; and video interviews with assistant director Bernard Stora and writer Rui Nogueira. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet containing essays by film critics Michael Sragow and Chris Fujiwara, excerpts from "Melville on Melville", a reprint interview with composer Eric Demarsan, and an appreciation from director John Woo. In French, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "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 Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This high-definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from 35 mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Lee Kline, in consultation with Pierre Lhomme.
Telecine colorist: Joe Gawler/Deluxe, New York."
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Le Cercle Rouge is going to revive a couple of old debates because the color-scheme of the transfer they have used is not identical to that of the transfer Studio Canal used for their Blu-ray release of Melville's film. It is slightly darker, and with the variety of reds and browns seen in the film pushed up quite a bit; in other words, the prominent blueish/greenish tint from the Studio Canal transfer has been replaced by warmer, better balanced reds, browns, and even grays (example: compare screencaptures #5 and 7 from our review for the Studio Canal release, UK version, with screencaptures #1 and 8 from this review). Compression, however, is slightly better on the Criterion release. Additionally, heavy edge-enhancement and macroblocking are never an issue of concern. There are no serious stability issues to report in this review either. All in all, technically this is a solid Blu-ray release, but I have to admit that I lean towards the Studio Canal Blu-ray release of Le Cercle Rouge, as my understanding is that the prevalent bluish/greenish tint it boasts is indeed more accurate. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: French LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic soundtrack. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube's integrated audio workstation."
I tested a couple of scenes to see how they compare to the Studio Canal Blu-ray release of Le Cercle Rouge, but I really could not hear much of a difference -- the French LPCM 1.0 track is just as solid as the French DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. I also did not detect any balance issues with Eric Demarsan's music score. There are no disturbing pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts either.
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Well, there are certainly going to be some very interesting debates now. Obviously, Criterion and Studio Canal's Blu-ray releases of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Cercle Rouge look quite different. I am going to keep both in my library because of the unique supplemental features, but I must admit that I lean towards the Studio Canal Blu-ray release, as my understanding is that the prevalent bluish/greenish tint it boasts is indeed more accurate. RECOMMENDED.
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Le Cercle Rouge Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - April 12-18 - April 12, 2011
Animating humans is tricky business. If you animate them too realistic, the human brain will be overly critical of the image and the viewer will not be able to emerge him/herself into the story. If the models aren't realistic enough, then the audience would be ...
• Criterion Blu-ray in April: Campion, Denis, De Palma, Gilliam, Lo... - January 14, 2011
The Criterion Collection has announced six titles for Blu-ray release in April. On April 12, it will release Le cercle rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970) and White Material (Claire Denis, 2009). A week later, it will release Kes (Ken Loach, 1969) and Sweetie (Jane ...
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