447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

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zedz
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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#76 Post by zedz » Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:33 pm

I watched Le Deuxieme Souffle a couple of days ago and really loved it. I remember now that when I first fell in love with Le Samourai many many years ago, reading up on Melville suggested that this was the next best bet. L'Armee des ombres, which I'd also seen and loved, was sort of critical terra incognita at the time, though it would probably be the darling nowadays. So t was great to finally catch up with the film and not be disappointed.

Where Le Samourai is stripped back and exquisitely minimal, Le Deuxieme Souffle is dense and detailed, like L'Armee, though still lean and reticent. I was impressed by how the magnificent heist sequence was staged like the big climax it would have been in most other films, even though its function here is more like another staging post in a larger plot - there's still an hour or so to go after it's concluded, even though it feels like it was the moment the film has been building up to, and it pays off dramatically in those terms.

The two obvious comparisons are with Criterion's other policiers of 2008, Le Doulos and Classe tous risques. The Melville was very impressively engineered, but it felt rather too mechanical in its plotting for my comfort, with ironies falling into place all too fatalistically. The Sautet film, which has a lot of similarities with Le Deuxieme Souffle, including Ventura, was enjoyable enough, but seemed very thin alongside the later film, lacking the dramatic muscle that Melville's set pieces bring to the table. And in my opinion Melville also tops Sautet in terms of the less heightened, 'ordinary' scenes, such as the lovely sequence in which Ventura travels to his new hideout on local buses.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#77 Post by HistoryProf » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:37 am

Just finished Le Doulos and have to put it second to Le Cercle Rouge for me.....just fantastic from start to finish. I was expecting a lot more girl slapping given the hubbub earlier in this thread, but it was all fairly tame if you ask me, considering what she may - or may not - have done to earn it. On that count, the Bosses dame comes through quite nicely I might add, and gives a little saucy flash as well.

For me, Army of Shadows is Melville's Masterpiece on a pedestal by itslef, w/ Le Cercle Rouge my favorite among his crime films. I enjoyed this one better than Bob and even Samourai...and now need to move on to Le Deuxieme Souffle...the the comments here on it's more serious tone have me both leery and intrigued. I do have one question regarding the 1:66 transfer these are both supposed to have...on my 16x9 Viera display, both fill up the screen in the normal view setting of the tv, and I could not find any way to get an image with the smaller black bars along the edge that I should get were it a real 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer. I'm sure it's my player or tv, but I wondered if anyone else had this issue? I'm just curious if i was losing picture at the top and bottom or something.

My other query is what people think about Le Doulos in comparison to the Becker stuff - specifically Casque d'or & Touchez pas au grisbi - or the other one offs in the collection like Classe tous risques? Those I have not picked up yet, but are high on my list....because i fell in love with Mellville's keen eye for the gangster flick, i've put my $ towards his stuff exclusively so far - other than Rififi that is. Would just like to hear some comparative discussion of where they fit with Melville, and vice versa....is Jean Pierre the King and the others aspiring to his level, or is there more of a Pantheon of French Gangster greatness he's merely one element of?

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#78 Post by zedz » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:11 pm

Touchez pas au grisbi is a stone cold masterpiece. It's got Melville's attention to detail, but it's very different in tone - it's almost incidental that it's a crime film. Casque d'Or is a completely different kettle of fish, with Becker in Renoir mode. But if you haven't seen Le Trou yet, make a beeline for it. You're in for a hell of a treat. The Criterion disc is bare bones, but the film is so great it's still one of their most essential releases.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#79 Post by Foulard » Mon Jan 11, 2010 4:17 pm

HistoryProf wrote:I do have one question regarding the 1:66 transfer these are both supposed to have...on my 16x9 Viera display, both fill up the screen in the normal view setting of the tv, and I could not find any way to get an image with the smaller black bars along the edge that I should get were it a real 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer. I'm sure it's my player or tv, but I wondered if anyone else had this issue? I'm just curious if i was losing picture at the top and bottom or something.
I think your Viera might be overscanning. DVD Beaver says Le Doulos is 1.66 and Army is 1.85, so you should see bars on both of them (in different places). I would suggest googling 'Viera' and 'overscan' to look for solutions--I saw some discussion when I looked them up. I haven't had any overscan issues with Criterion discs since I switched from CRT to LCD.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#80 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:27 pm

Isn't Le Trou Becker in Bresson mode zedz? :D

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#81 Post by Matt » Mon Jan 11, 2010 6:39 pm

Actually, given that it's something of a departure for Bresson, it seems more like A Man Escaped is Bresson in Becker mode avant la lettre.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#82 Post by zedz » Mon Jan 11, 2010 7:16 pm

I think of Le Trou as sort of midway between Bresson and Melville, but on the Man Escaped meets Army of Shadows axis rather than the very different meeting point you'd get on the Silence de la mer meets Diary of a Country Priest axis. But, as Matt says, this meeting point is probably closer to Becker's home neighbourhood than either Bresson's or Melville's. I'll leave the graphs and Venn diagrams to swo.

But in the end all this really means is that we're dealing with three very complex filmmakers.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#83 Post by david hare » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:42 pm

One thing le Trou (a masterpiece) does is openly canvass (in passing witha secondary character) the idea of homosexuality whereas the Bresson submerges this potent aspect into the seemingly contradictory but exultant metaphor of redemption of the hero by Jost.

I also suspect Condamne is now my favorite Bresson.

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Re: 447-448 Le doulos and Le deuxieme souffle

#84 Post by HistoryProf » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:45 pm

zedz wrote:Touchez pas au grisbi is a stone cold masterpiece. It's got Melville's attention to detail, but it's very different in tone - it's almost incidental that it's a crime film. Casque d'Or is a completely different kettle of fish, with Becker in Renoir mode. But if you haven't seen Le Trou yet, make a beeline for it. You're in for a hell of a treat. The Criterion disc is bare bones, but the film is so great it's still one of their most essential releases.
My sister gave me Le Trou for xmas LAST year and it remains in my kevyip...i keep forgetting i own it because i didn't buy it! Enough said and i'll make it my next watch this weekend.


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Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#86 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 12, 2013 2:59 pm

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9th AT 7:00 AM.


Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Colection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.


RESOURCES:
Thread for the Criterion DVD.
Melville discussion.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.

- Discuss the ethics of the methods employed by the police in the film.
- To what extent does Melville glamorize his criminals?
- How does the staging of the big heist here compare to Melville's other films?
- Melville is mostly known for his crime films, but also made several delicately observed character studies. What moments in this film show his "softer" side?


***PM me if you have any suggestions for additions or just general concerns and questions.***

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#87 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:26 am

This is a narrative propelled by death. A death starts the plot going (the murder in the bar), but more than that, death follows Gu at every turn and prefigures his own end. In the opening scene a man leaps just a little too far and is killed. So, too, does Gu's companion leap to his death rather than give himself over to the police, a foreshadowing of Gu's own fate in which he chooses his code (and death) over less external values. Gu is just running in place as fast as he can. He is caught up in death from the very first scene and, far from running from it, allows it to engulf him. This movie isn't just about men who can't compromise, tho': it's also a movie designed not to allow them to compromise. Gu tries it twice, first by not killing Joe Ricci at the restaurant and then by assuring Paul, Joe's brother, that he won't touch Joe. But this compromise is intolerable; the movie is organized so that the choice gets put to Gu once again in the most forceful terms possible, assured that his nature will eventually cause his destruction.


Here are a few somewhat disconnected thoughts on codes of behaviour:

In Melville's films (or at least this one), the code is impractical; it does not allow one easier navigation in the world, it forces impossible choices, often ones that demand a grand display of principle that come at the expense of life, love, or just simple ease. More personal or emotive values like family, friends, love, are secondary to external, abstract ones like honour or duty. This more ancient conception of value (external, absolute) makes an odd but successful import into a modern gangster movie, tho' it feels like it ought to be in a more abstract, less vulgar and gritty setting, like the western or an historically-set martial arts film where the characters and setting match the elevation of the values. In Melville's films, this elevated, impersonal sense of value adds a vague sort of intensity to what are otherwise quite particular and grounded films. (I think, tho' it needs more looking into, that this intensity derives from the sense that something exterior to the movie is driving the characters and the plot). This all fits more organically in a narrative like Le Samourai, however, where the lead character is himself an anachronism and a rather abstract young man who doesn't seem totally to mesh with the wider-world outside of his hermetic room. In something like Le Douxieme Souffle, the atavistic value system is all the more curious, with someone like Gu coming across as neurotic and compulsive. This would feel unsatisfactory if the plot weren't, as I've said, always forcing its characters into these impossible moral choices between values and survival, so one feels Gu would end up where he does even if he weren't so neurotic about it. So these generalized values add to the fatalistic atmosphere, an added external element driving the characters to doom.

So, as far as I can figure it, these gangster codes don't redeem the characters or the world nor even hold a nostalgic value, pointing to a golden age founded on a belief in certain virtues (eg. a John Woo film). They end up as part of the machinery of fate. They are one more screw, one more thing needling the characters into oblivion. As I said, these gangster codes (at least in Le Douxieme Souffle) are impractical: they don't give the characters any more options for living; quite the opposite, they reduce the options. You can contrast this to someone like Anton Chigurgh in No Country For Old Men, whose code amounts to controlling what he can, accepting what he can't, and punishing those foolish enough try to control the forces that dwarf them. This is what allows him to survive when everyone else is just running to their doom: he doesn't put himself against the grander forces in the world, and so he seems all the more an emissary of those forces. He can still be on the negative end of circumstance--a random tee-boning at an intersection--but his ability to accept the uncontrollable and move with it keeps him safe. He walks away from that crash and we have no doubt he will be fine in the end. Chigurgh's code is not the code of the characters in Melville's film. Gu's code does not allow him to navigate more easily a situation in which he is manipulated by circumstance. He just tosses himself against circumstance all the harder and gets himself killed, and killed over nothing more than a petty solution to a local problem (the death of the men in that room will change nothing and we can't be sure his gesture was more likely to clear his name than Orloff's alternative).

This film does not concern itself with how codes allow members of the underworld to survive; it's interested in how codes drive people to their death. This is a film of constriction. I liked it.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#88 Post by Drucker » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:23 am

(Full disclosure: I've only seen Bob Le Flambeur, Army of Shadows, Le Deuxieme Souffle, Le Samourai, and Leon Morin, so any generality I make about his films is based on seeing those).

With this and the Leon thread, there's been a lot of discussion about the inevitability of certain Melville films. But one of the moments that stuck out to me the most in the film is this line from Gu: "I gambled, and I lost." So while even the liner notes point to the "inevitability" of Gu's demise, this quote I think also makes clear that his fate isn't sealed. The last time he was in jail, there was a 50% chance that he could've made the opposite choice and not ended up incarcerated. Would Gu have joined in with the heist here were it not for Paul? The circumstances certainly nudge Melville's characters in the film into a certain direction, but there is still a lot of choice involved with their decisions.

A few other thoughts on the film:

I really enjoyed Gu and it reminded me so much of the way he plays in Army Of Shadows. There's a definite "cool"ness to so much of Meville's films (Bob, Jef, Leon, and I imagine there is more), but there is nothing cool about Gu. He's a truly brutal character. He wakes up and goes right for his gun. He makes sure his enemies know they are goners before disposing of them in the apartment early on. And I think this is an element of the film that helps paint Melville's two different "sides" almost: there's the French New Wave that he was a contemporary of and the American gangster films. The former seems, for me, to influence the air of cool throughout the film, and it's disrupted frequently by American crime-film-style violence, where nobody is acting "cool" at all.

Another brief point I'll make is that Melville's protagonists seem to have met the equivalent to a "match" early on, and their matches are formidable opponents, which adds to the tension. Blot is a good example, like Leon Morin of a character that will clearly be as cunning and intelligent as our protagonist. While Gu dies in the end, there is a sense that something has left Blot as well. He didn't see Gu as merely a "bad guy," but almost an opponent in some ongoing cat-and-mouse game. Melville's Blot seems just as sympathetic as Gu for the audience.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#89 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:38 am

Anyone else find it amusing just how easy it is to abduct and murder a police chief in this movie? I don't know if this is because it was in a small town, but there was remarkably little fuss about the whole thing.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#90 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:38 am

In some ways, it seems as though Gu is pursuing death throughout the movie, and seems interested throughout more in achieving what within his code is an honorable death than in staying alive. We're told at one point that he decided he was more or less dead when first brought to prison, and despite his renewed burst of energy, he seems convinced that everything's still pointed in one direction; unlike the characters of, say, Le Cercle Rouge, he never really seems to expect to get away with it. And, of course, he's the architect of his own destruction- using the same gun for a robbery as he did to kill a couple of nobodies is a flagrant rookie mistake, perhaps the act of a man who doesn't expect to live to face the consequences.

As far as the glamorization of criminals- in one respect, that seems a ludicrous notion, as Gu's lifestyle is hardscrabble and mean, and pointed inevitably towards death; we see him riding the bus, sleeping in shithole hotel rooms, and isolating himself further and further throughout the narrative, but we never see anything like the material rewards of a big score. Yet it's not totally off base, as Gu's archaic sense of honor is itself alluring, and the reason that we as an audience can be brought to care for a cold blooded murderer- he's glamorous in the sense that he's a rather romantic figure, a man with a code more absolute than would be an adherence to the law or to conventional morality, glamorous the way Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad is. I don't think it's particularly problematic to give such qualities to a criminal- it's pretty obviously nothing to do with actual criminality, and it doesn't really make one want to go out and commit a crime. And at any rate, I think the ultimately most attractive figure is Orloff, who shares Gu's code but also refuses to kill the motorcycle policeman.

The morality of the police is somewhat trickier; to me, Blot's methods are mostly just intelligent policework, using his knowledge of the actual human beings behind the crimes rather than just storming in and trying to make things happen via brute force. His speech about how they will not catch Gu unless he slips up seems comparable to Sausage's take on Chigurh, showing him to be a man who has great control in part because he understands the limits of his power. His trick on Gu is, on the one hand, pretty unconscionable- I think in the American legal system, that taped evidence would be totally inadmissible for a couple of different reasons, as Gu is under duress, entrapped, and certainly not anything like Mirandized, but I think within the context of the movie, this is something Gu ought to be prepared for- he allows himself to speak instead of sitting and keeping his own counsel, which goes against his ethos, and it damns him. Blot is merely the agent, in that respect.

The far greater crime, on Blot's part, is turning a blind eye to the gestapo-esque interrogation methods employed by Fardino- though Blot may not directly participate, he is complicit in a way that recalls the French Occupation. It's not clear to me whether his participation in the posthumous exposure of Fardino's methods is meant to represent redemption for what Blot has done, or mere further opportunism, or simply respect for the departed Gu; at any rate, existence of a police force that employs torture puts the ethical-though-immoral gangsters into a sharp relief, and reminds one that gangsters are far from the only evil in the world.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#91 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:47 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Anyone else find it amusing just how easy it is to abduct and murder a police chief in this movie? I don't know if this is because it was in a small town, but there was remarkably little fuss about the whole thing.
It seemed to fit with Gu's apparent omnipotence within the scope of his professional skills- throughout the movie, I get the impression that Gu could accomplish almost anything, were he not so convinced of his own inevitable doom. Since the confession is the one aspect of the narrative that breaks through Gu's apathy- the thing that could prevent him dying honorably, which I see as being his goal throughout- his full abilities are brought to bear on resolving, and he reverts to romantic doom only when he can be reasonably certain that it has been set right.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#92 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:19 am

matrixschmatrix wrote:using the same gun for a robbery as he did to kill a couple of nobodies is a flagrant rookie mistake, perhaps the act of a man who doesn't expect to live to face the consequences.
Blot has a good point about this: when doing a dangerous, high-stakes robbery a criminal is instinctively going to use a tool he knows well and trusts. In which case I think circumstance more than anything was against Gu as he had no time to get familiar with any other weapon and that was not a job where one can afford to miss.

To me, what brings Gu down is, again, the idea of character-as-fate: he can't help reusing his old and easily identifiable criminal methods. That's the only reason the police even get on to him, the murders in the car.

Also, I have to wonder how much anyone's going to believe that "confession" since it's going to become obvious Gu killed Fardino, making it easy enough for people to dismiss it as a forced confession, having no truth value. I think it's a fine, somewhat subtle irony that despite the extremes to which Gu ascends in clearing his name, the solution probably won't amount to much.
matrixschmatrix wrote:In some ways, it seems as though Gu is pursuing death throughout the movie
I disagree. I don't think Gu is pursuing death, I think he's just ambivalent about it coming for him. Being there for Manouche is plainly important to him, important enough that he doesn't risk going after Joe immediately and dying in a shootout. But, eventually, his concern for Manouche pales next to his concern for honour and he heads out fully determined to meet death if it's indeed coming.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#93 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:41 am

I think, in a world in which everyone takes Gu's forced and obviously suspect confession seriously, it's reasonable that they would take Fardino's confession seriously as well.

I think Gu isn't actively suicidal, and is prepared to pursue an exit, but his heart's not really in it, and he's betraying himself to a certain degree; that's how I see his call with the gun (he did have his friend's old and reliable gun equally easily to hand), as something not consciously a move towards death, but a sign of a lessened will towards fighting against it, which in Melville's world amounts to suicide.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#94 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:53 am

matrixschmatrix wrote:I think, in a world in which everyone takes Gu's forced and obviously suspect confession seriously, it's reasonable that they would take Fardino's confession seriously as well.
No one knows it was forced or suspect, but even so, criminals are paranoid and cynical and in their world even unfounded reputations stick. Criminals tend to be more willing to suspect someone than vindicate them. And as for the general public, Gu's a criminal, they're hardly willing to give him a fair shake. His plan requires a level of good will and fairness from the people in his world that there's no reason to expect..
matrixschmatrix wrote: I think Gu isn't actively suicidal, and is prepared to pursue an exit, but his heart's not really in it, and he's betraying himself to a certain degree; that's how I see his call with the gun (he did have his friend's old and reliable gun equally easily to hand), as something not consciously a move towards death, but a sign of a lessened will towards fighting against it, which in Melville's world amounts to suicide.
Good point. Maybe this is just the cherry-picking of retrospect, but doesn't it seem like Gu never really goes anywhere? He travels, but there's never any spacial connection when he does: the prison, the box-car, the boat, those are all unconnected scenes. We get no sense of where they lie relative to anything else. And Gu spends the rest of the movie in small locations with the same kind of people. For a man supposedly on the run, there's no sense of momentum to him.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#95 Post by Drucker » Mon Aug 26, 2013 11:02 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Good point. Maybe this is just the cherry-picking of retrospect, but doesn't it seem like Gu never really goes anywhere? He travels, but there's never any spacial connection when he does: the prison, the box-car, the boat, those are all unconnected scenes. We get no sense of where they lie relative to anything else. And Gu spends the rest of the movie in small locations with the same kind of people. For a man supposedly on the run, there's no sense of momentum to him.
I agree with this, but not the sense that there's no momentum. I got the sense that once he was tricked into the confession, he becomes a man possessed to clear his name, and at that point there is a tremendous sense of momentum. The amount of care and planning that had gone into all of his actions up to and including the heist seems gone. There's no more looking at the big picture (which there was for example, when he was planning on escaping). He lives moment for moment, getting into the hospital, killing the guard at the hospital, and his general being-on the run in the second half of the picture seems to come off as a man with a much more singular purpose: just to clear his name, and take out those who have wronged him.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#96 Post by jindianajonz » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:28 pm

I have a lot I want to say, but my computer is buggy so I'm stuck typing on a phone for the time being.

Instead, I'll ask some questions that I am confused about: what is the significance of Blot stopping to smirk at the shirt as he leaves Jo Riccis? The commentary suggests that he is admiring the gangsters lifestyle, but this doesn't ring true for me. We see Gu packing a bad with a collared shirt before making a journey twice in the film, maybe Blot is smirking at his efforts to escape?

Second, why does Gu make a point about covering the bodies with a tarp? This never actually happened so it seems inconsequential to the plot, making it an odd comment to make.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#97 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:41 pm

I feel as though Blot admiring the shirt isn't particularly a consequential moment, just a bit of time spent with him and failing to read his thoughts.

For the tarp, I think that's germane primarily as an insight into the degree to which Gu is a.) professional and b.) fully invested into the 'murdering innocents' aspect of the heist; without that, it could be assumed that he was torn up inside and pushing himself against his code in shooting the motorcycle cop. As is, we see that he doesn't like it, but that it's something he's pretty prepared for.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#98 Post by jindianajonz » Mon Aug 26, 2013 12:54 pm

I'll agree with you on the second, but enough time was spent on the shirt team that I can't help but feel there was some significance there. Without it, Melville could have ended the scene with Blot leaving Jo's office; instead, he took the time to bring the actor to a new location, and devote 10 to 15 seconds of film time to have him exit the door, turn and walk down the street, pause in front of the store front, and then walk out of the frame. It just seems too deliberate to me to write off as some time spent with Blot.

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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#99 Post by zedz » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:00 pm

I spoke a little about fate in the Leon Morin thread. I feel like his characters tend to be placed in extremely constrained situations, where choices are limited, but I don't think they're stripped of volition, and that's where a lot of the emotional power of his films arises: he takes the characters' choices seriously and follows through on the consequences of those choices.

In this film, I think we see several times that Gu makes choices that are wrong / dangerous, but understandable in the circumstances. When he opts to take part in the heist, we and he know it's a big risk, and Manouche tries to convince him not to do it, but we're provided with both an economic (he has no money with which to start a new life) and psychological (he can't accept being subsidized by a woman) reason for the decision It's a choice his background has predisposed him to make, and he realizes it's a long shot. But he could equally have opted out and fled to Italy (Melville makes it clear that he doesn't need the money to pay for his escape - which is how most thrillers would force this to play out - only to give him a cushy life afterwards).

Rather than be doomed from the start, I have to believe that Gu really was serious about leaving France and starting a new life, but the way I see the film, as the plot progresses he slowly realizes that he's been outmanoeuvred by circumstance (as soon as he "has to" kill those thugs - but again, this is a choice, as is his indifference to covering the deed up - he knows he's compromised), and fatalism sets in. Towards the end of the film, he understands that the chances of getting out of this alive are pretty remote, so his Plan B becomes Dying a Good Death.

A couple of less plotty things to consider:

How great is that opening escape scene? A suspense sequence reduced to abstract grey shapes against an abstract grey sky, with fragments of human beings pressed into the corners.

How great is Lino Ventura? I really appreciate the lack of special pleading for the character of Gu. He's basically an unrepentant scumbag, and his vaunted 'code' is almost entirely self-serving (it's the kind of code that has no problem accommodating the murder of innocent people), but Ventura makes him utterly compelling and even sympathetic, all by doing very little. He's got one of those great movie star faces that conveys his thought processes with extreme economy.

Further to Gu's character, you have to acknowledge the brazen hypocrisy of holding a gun to somebody's head to force them to write a confession that they use violence to force confessions out of people. Even more revealing, I think, is the fact that he really did rat on his associate. Sure, he was tricked into giving the game away, but nevertheless he 'unprofessionally' blurted out Paul's name and fingered him for the crime - which lends a new cast to all his self-righteous fury after the fact.

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Drucker
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Re: Le deuxième souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1966)

#100 Post by Drucker » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:07 pm

zedz wrote:How great is Lino Ventura? I really appreciate the lack of special pleading for the character of Gu. He's basically an unrepentant scumbag, and his vaunted 'code' is almost entirely self-serving (it's the kind of code that has no problem accommodating the murder of innocent people), but Ventura makes him utterly compelling and even sympathetic, all by doing very little. He's got one of those great movie star faces that conveys his thought processes with extreme economy.
While I enjoyed Army Of Shadows, this film and Lino's performance in it blew me away even more. As I've somewhat alluded to in this thread so far, there's a definite cool factor to Melville's films. But Lino in this and Army seems so decidedly un-cool, always on the run, and while he's a master of his craft, he is so susceptible to regular human foibles that it makes his character incredibly relatable.

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