Jean Pierre Melville – An Independent Spirit

Le Cercle Rouge PG (S)

The Red Circle

Combining honourable antiheroes, coolly atmospheric cinematography, and breathtaking set pieces, Melville’s magisterial heist movie, which centres on the preparation, execution and aftermath of a daring and meticulously planned jewel-robbery, is a masterpiece of crime cinema.

Melville regular Alain Delon plays a master thief, fresh out of prison, who crosses paths with a notorious escapee (Gian Maria Volonté) and an alcoholic ex-cop (Yves Montand). But after the unlikely trio plot a jewel heist, against impossible odds, in the Place Vendômea, a relentless inspector and their own pasts converge to seal their fates.

A powerful, existential thriller about honour, fortune and fate, Le Cercle Rouge could be described as the ultimate Jean-Pierre Melville experience. With a terrific, and entirely silent, extended robbery sequence that tested the boundaries of narrative film; laconic, solitary characters, smoky after-hours locales and skilfully executed action sequences; Melville’s penultimate film serves as the perfect testament to everything associated with his singular vision and style.