Le Cercle Rouge

Le Cercle Rouge

It's hard to imagine a more overtly stylish film. Everything is colorfully dark and angular here, and every interior seems to have a signature color and perspective that gives the scene or even the setting a personality.

The jewelry store has its blue carpet, its mirror, and its cases, and each of these are shown from the same angles each time we visit. The full set of the display room gets shown multiple times; the first time it is impressive, the second it sets a tone. Jansen's room, with its vomitously colored wall paper and slightly hidden doorway speak of the madness he apparently suffers from, illustrated in the film's most uncomfortable and bizarre sequence as he has a nightmare of critters crawling all over him.

This precision is mirrored by the central heist as it unfolds before us. Every movement in those scenes is calculated. Every action is intentional, both for the characters and for the director. You don't watch that sequence without feeling the tension, the cunning, and the effort. Similarly, the pool hall scene with Corey playing, shot for a spell from directly above the table, feels like it comes from another movie. It's a sudden shift into some sort of sports instructional film, but the shift just adds a moment of delight to the proceedings.

Following this, Corey gets to play it as cool as they come, casually walking back to rip the phone cord out of the wall. I could watch that over and over again. Taking out several gangsters before just calmly walking out of the place is one thing. Taking the time to stop, disable the phone on which the police are being called, and then continuing his departure is just too much awesome. I have no idea why I'm gushing, but I was quite taken with it in that moment.

Actually, it's probably just that that was the moment I recognized Melville's attention to detail. I mean, I've noticed in other films, but it stood out in that moment. Everything is covered. Every moment that propels us to the finale is shown, with just as much as we need for the puzzle to fit together. Both sides of the equation get their moments on the screen--the major players with the cops and the robbers have enough personality to seem like real people.

The stakes are clearly delineated--the cops' reputations, and possibly jobs, are on the line; the robbers risk jail or death. We are shown how Corey and Vogel are a seamless unit, moments after they meet. We are shown club owner Santi's shadiness. We're shown glimpses of Mattei's homelife, of his methods as a police officer. All of the parts and pieces are accounted for and illuminated before we get into the heist, and that serves to both make the heist more intense and to almost overshadow it. It's an impressing moment of plot, of filmmaking, and of action. The heist is a conclusion, not a pivotal moment.

What falls out after it is just as inevitable that if the film had ended in the middle of the heist, I don't think I would have minded.

Sally Jane liked these reviews