Jean-Pierre Melville

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david hare
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 8:01 pm
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Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#51 Post by david hare » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:28 pm

Les Enfants Terribles is a Cocteau Film as much as a Melville film. It's that rarest of beasts the dual headed movie, and one for which Melville himself understood it thorugh sheer cultrual necessity it had to wear the head of its literary author as well as its metteur en scene. One of the more interesting exercises a student of film (rather than a film student) might unertake is to parse the movie sequence by sequence and codify signs and images and any other bits of mise en scene and construction that might idenitfy one over the other. And after undertaking this uselss execrcise the avid student might remark that the two authors are part of one of the greatest symbioses in movies. There right in the middle of the credits is one: "Avec la voix de Jean Cocteau".

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matrixschmatrix
Joined: Tue May 25, 2010 11:26 pm

Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#52 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 24, 2017 10:53 pm

zedz wrote: Great assessment of a great film. When I first saw it I immediately thought of Bresson and was startled when I checked the dates of their respective movies. With these earliest Melville films, I think what we're seeing is an intelligent director who's extraordinarily in tune with his material, and tailoring his style to the needs of the authors he's collaborating with, which I think is why it's so easy to misread Les Enfants terribles as a Cocteau film. Although it's a film that's completely in tune with Cocteau's authorial signature, as a piece of filmmaking in my opinion it's quite different to anything that Cocteau directed (despite its various Cocteauvian visual flourishes).
It is interesting, and startling, how much Meville's early work doesn't seem immediately Melvillian (though Bob le Flambeur is an exception- here an in Les Enfants Terribles in particular, there's a sense of his skill (both are phenomenal movies) but not necessarily of the particular personality that would come totally to define his later work. Neither feels anonymous, and I agree that Les Enfants doesn't feel precisely like something Cocteau had directed, but apart from certain elements that would recur- the hushed intensity of Silence, for example- I would be hard pressed to guess that either was Melville if I didn't know it going in.

You could read into this a certain ossification in Melville's late period, since his last few movies become nigh obsessive in their focus on a few key ideas and themes- honor among thieves, skilled men doing skilled work in dead silence, a sort of inhuman cool- but it feels more like a narrowing in, a sense that Melville was becoming a minimalist and seeing how much he could do with a deliberately limited palette. His influences still echo, though- I think Bresson still resonates in Army of Shadows, which has some elements of A Man Escaped, occupation as this existentialist hell, only with Melville forcing his hero to repeat the miraculous escape over and over until finally he and his comrades are destroyed by the struggle.

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Brian C
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 am
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Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#53 Post by Brian C » Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:56 am

I'm extremely resistant to the idea of picking a favorite film, but if forced, I'd probably pick Army of Shadows. I watch it on a fairly regular basis, having thankfully picked up the Criterion Blu on Day 1 of its existance, and I'm pretty sure I watched it most recently earlier this year. It's a perfect blend of technical skill, compelling narrative, thematic depth, interesting characters, fine acting, etc. - superb in all the ways that make a movie a good movie on the surface level.

But, no doubt due to Melville's personal history, it also has a sense of lived-in experiential wisdom. It's not just a film about the people of the Resistance, it's a film that's very deeply about what it's like to be part of the Resistance. It's a movie that makes me take stock of myself, and wonder how I would react if I found myself in circumstances like that. Yet at the same time, it carries no hint that the courage needed to serve is in some way more noble or otherwise morally superior to the other people, living their day-to-day lives the best they can; I think specifically of the barber briefly played by Serge Reggiani, who as far as we know is just a guy going about keeping his head down, but the film makes a point that for all we know decent people everywhere were doing what they could in small but valuable ways.

In fact, the film seems very ambivalently clear-eyed about these characters and why they do what they do. They have no hope of personal reward, or of materially affecting the outcome of the war, or even to stay alive until the end of it. They do what they do out of either a sense of moral principle or, more likely, just an intellectual obligation more than any overriding patriotic sense. Their sacrifices are small, perhaps pointless, perhaps even counterproductive in ways. The film doesn't even bother to show a meaningful mission: some radio equipment is smuggled here and there, bigwigs are ferried out of the country only to attend inconsequential meetings in London, etc ... busy work, essentially. An important rescue mission needs to be aborted, another successful rescue mission results in the rescued man being put into seclusion and out of action, no more helpful to the cause than if he was dead. And yet they trudge on, grim and determined; they are part of the Resistance, so they must do what they can to Resist.

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knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#54 Post by knives » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:13 am

I saw Un Flic recently too and had similar feelings. Sure it might not be Melville at his absolute best (though I think it might feature his best scene with Michael's sad dismissal), but it is still a pretty good movie that I'm really glad he made.

Out of curiosity is there anywhere not off the market to see Melville's two obscurities? They're the only ones I have left to see and it seems such an easy group to complete.

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Brian C
Joined: Wed Sep 16, 2009 11:58 am
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Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#55 Post by Brian C » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:24 am

Amazon has a MAGNET OF DOOM DVD under the title AN HONORABLE YOUNG MAN. A quick google search turns up no reviews, however.

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Drucker
Your Future our Drucker
Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 9:37 am

Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#56 Post by Drucker » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:40 am

I've liked nearly every Melville I've seen, but I've watched them all once and they haven't stayed with me, so a re-watch is in order. That said, seeing Le Samourai last month cemented it's place in my head as an absolute masterpiece. If I'm being honest, there is a bit of complexity to some of the longer Melville films, and missing a subtitle or two has confused me in the past. LS is so straightforward and so economical in its storytelling that there's very little risk of that. I also love the ambiguity of Delon. Unlike protagonists fighting for the French Resistance/against Nazis/or old-timers going for one last heist, I don't feel like there's a straightforward reason to sympathize or root for Delon. And by the end, we are left with just as much mystery about his death as we are about his life. Not to say that Melville's films are clear good guys vs. bad guys parables, but this open-ended reading of this film really stands out.

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FrauBlucher
Joined: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:28 pm
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Re: Jean-Pierre Melville

#57 Post by FrauBlucher » Sat Sep 15, 2018 10:00 am

Brian C wrote:
domino harvey wrote:For most of the running time, I found myself head over heels for Quand tu liras cette lettre (1953). Philippe Lemaire gives one of the great asshole performances as a skeevy lothario who forces himself on women, eventually raping one and driving her to suicide. The subsequent rape revenge is unexpected and diabolical in its own way, and Melville really nails the ultimate punishment for such toxic masculinity. And then…
SpoilerShow
I naturally thought that Lemaire was leading Juliette Greco on when he professed his love for her, as it came out of nowhere and would fit well with his character— how else to turn this to his advantage than to flip the tables on the woman who blackmailed him into doing the (horribly unfair to the victim) “right thing”? But then it becomes clear he is sincere, and what’s worse, Greco falls for it. Both arrive on this without the film justifying their about-faces. The film is missing a good ten minutes of narrative necessity to justify these emotional changes, and they are not present in the picture. While this means the film goes off the rails in the last twenty minutes, I did like the ending, with absolutely no one caring about Lemaire’s death— loved the nonchalant hosedown of the train!
Even with this huge caveat, this is still a highly enjoyable film from Melville, and one that deserves a rediscovery when/if it receives an English-friendly release.
Saw this tonight as part of the Melville series at the Gene Siskel Film Center this month, and while I share your issues with the big plot twist, I also find myself feeling like Therese's motives were not really well resolved by the film.
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At the end of the film, when she's giving her vows, she references the failure of her "plan to deliver Max back to Denise" as if that was her intent all along. Was this a wink to the audience, to let us know that we misunderstood her intent in going to take the train to Max? Or was she just in denial about how she felt and how close she was to giving in to her lust for Max?

I don't even know if this is a problem with the film, but as it led to its denouement I was frustrated by how vaguely defined Therese's motives seemed. Maybe watching it again will shed some light on the question? Either way, I'm not so sure she fell for anything ... but she might have, I guess. She's an interesting character, at least.

I agree with you that Max's death was masterful in its pitilessness.
Overall, a strange film. Almost like a Cannes-set reworking of A Streetcar Named Desire. I understand that Melville more or less disowned it later in his career but there's a lot to like about it.
I saw this yesterday. It has been given a 4k restoration. Rialto (studio canal has nothing to do with this) has the rights so I could see this ending up with Criterion.

I have to agree with both Domino and Brian C about the issues of the plot twist. But I found it entertaining enough not to have that throw me off the pony. The ending worked for me as well. Best use of a hose I’ve seen in any film.

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