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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • French Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau, author of Jean-Pierre Melville: An American in Paris, and film critic Geoff Andrew of the British Film Institute
  • New video interview with director Bertrand Tavernier, who served as publicity agent on the film
  • Archival footage featuring interviews with Melville and Lino Ventura
  • Original theatrical trailer

Le deuxieme souffle


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Raymond Pellegrin, , Jo Ricci
1966 | 144 Minutes | Licensor: Editions Rene Chateau

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #448
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: October 7, 2008
Review Date: September 26, 2008

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SYNOPSIS

With his customary restraint and ruthless attention to detail, director Jean-Pierre Melville follows the parallel tracks of French underworld criminal Gu (the inimitable Lino Ventura), escaped from prison and roped into one last robbery, and the suave inspector, Blot (Paul Meurisse), relentlessly seeking him. The implosive Le deuxième souffle captures the pathos, loneliness, and excitement of a life in the shadows with methodical suspense and harrowing authenticity, and contains one of the most thrilling heist sequences Melville ever shot.

Forum members rate this film 8.7/10

 

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PICTURE

The Criterion Collection releases Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le deuxieme souffle on DVD, along with Le doulos. The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.66:1 on this dual-layered disc.

Le doulos had a few issues but overall it came off looking pretty good. Le deuxieme souffle has some of the same issues, though they’re a little heavier. The transfer has some obvious artifacts present in places, noise being quite heavy at the beginning and then showing up occasionally (though lightly) throughout the film. Sharpness overall is quite good, despite a few sequences looking a little fuzzy. Blacks and whites are quite strong and contrast is excellent.

The print is in okay shape. Bits of debris appear here and there, as do lines. Grain is present and isn’t heavy throughout most of the film, only a few sequences presenting a heavier amount of grain. Edges of the frame can also look a little faded at times. But an interesting flaw appears quite a bit throughout, which looks like slight blemishes raining through the picture. The blemishes are fairly light and I wasn’t really able to capture them in the grabs, but when in motion they’re noticeable and at times it looks like it’s snowing. In all honesty I noticed this at first during an exterior sequence and thought it might be snow, but then it continued during an interior shot and then appears on and off throughout.

Despite some strong aspects it’s not as good as Criterion’s other recent releases, nowhere near as smooth. The print issues more than likely couldn’t be helped, but some of the other issues with the transfer itself (the noise, which in turn creates some fuzzy looking sequences) make it a little average.

6/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

Like with Le doulos the French Dolby Digital mono track presents decent sounding dialogue, music, and effects. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s serviceable and works for the film.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Le deuxieme souffle doesn’t look to be as loaded as Le doulos but I found all the supplements worth viewing.

First up is an audio commentary featuring film scholar Ginette Vincendeau and film critic Geoff Andrew. Criterion’s release of Le doulos contained select scene commentary by Vincendeau also available on the BFI release. I found that commentary simply okay and wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a longer, feature-length commentary involving Vincendeau. Thankfully I found this one, recorded for Criterion in 2008, much more effective and interesting. It’s a scholarly track but the track comes off rather energetic and fairly quick with the two bouncing topics off of one another. They cover a lot of aspects of the film from Melville’s techniques and the film’s narrative to the film’s themes of loyalty and betrayal and character motivations. They discuss sequences without necessarily narrating what’s going on. In the end I rather liked it and found it to be a rather informative track.

Continuing on from an interview found on the DVD for Le doulos, Bertrand Tavernier talks more about working with Melville and Le deuxieme souffle. This interview, running 12-minutes and anamorphically enhanced for widescreen television, presents Tavernier talking about a sort of falling out he had with Melville (apparently he didn’t like L’aine des Ferchaux and got into an argument with Melville over it and that was apparently that.) But after reading a book by Tavernier that he enjoyed, Melville got in touch with Tavernier and had him work as the publicity agent on Le deuxieme souffle. He gets a little more into Melville’s filming techniques and then touches on issues between Melville and author Jose Giovanni, the author of the novel on which the film was based. I think I preferred the portion of the interview found on the Le doulos DVD but this is a good continuation and Tavernier offers much more on the director.

The section “Archival Interviews” presents a couple of supplements. The first segment is the shortest, running about 4-minutes. Called Provence actualites it’s described as news reel footage from the set of Le deuxieme souffle. It’s made up mostly of quick interviews with Melville and actors Lino Ventura and Paul Meurisse, who all talk about working on the film.

While that one was interesting if “fluffy”, the next supplement proves to be much better. Coming from a television program simply called Cinema, this 27-minute episode focuses on Melville and the film. It gets some decent behind-the-scenes footage of Melville directing, but is mostly made up of interviews with Melville and Ventura. Melville talks about how his love of film grew (similar to stories from other directors he received a camera as a gift at a very young age.) There’s discussion on his own studio, which offers him more independence, and he explains his four year break even offering some anecdotes on projects he passed on (including French Cancan which he turned down because he thought the script was terrible, but he was taught a lesson by Renoir as to why one doesn’t have to pass on projects.) He also touches on a brief flirtation he had with retiring from film in 1950 after the release of Les enfants terribles only to reverse his decision after running into Jacques Becker and actor Daniel Gélin, who both told him they had just seen the film and hadn’t stopped talking about it. There’s also an interesting and fairly amusing interview with Lino Ventura who talks about acting and his physique. Overall this is a great supplement and probably my favourite feature on the disc.

Closing the disc features is a theatrical trailer. A small booklet has also been included, containing a decent essay on the film and Melville’s cinema by Adrian Danks.

It’s a small release and looks to contain less than Le doulos but overall I felt this release’s supplements were more fulfilling.

7/10

CLOSING

I recommend the release, but have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed by the transfer. It has its strong aspects but there are some noticeable issues with the digital transfer in places throughout. But the supplements, while not plentiful, present a lot of wonderful information on the film and its director, somewhat making up for any of the disc’s shortcomings.


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