Le Cercle Rouge
Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Another film on the list I had never heard of and didn’t know what I was getting into. A few minutes in: oh, it’s a heist movie. Maybe this will be an opportunity for me to work out why I don’t like heist movies? Why heist stories bore me? Or maybe it’ll just be a thing that happens on the tv and I’ll get some handsewing done on this baby quilt I’m making.
It’s French, it’s from 1970, it’s filmed a little like a Hitchcock if he liked hand held cameras more. Oh yes! French films. The first woman we get to meet is naked! yayyyy. The only other film of this director’s I have seen is Army of Shadows (which is lower in the list) and I can see the similarity to this – the pacing, the stark, cold palette. The hard surfaces everywhere.
So: heist stories are very tropey, right? They’re a bunch of cool people, usually men, who wear suits and cool jackets and plan a heist and then they do the heist and it either works out and they get away or it doesn’t. The only movie I can think of that I’ve seen, which had a bit of a twist on this was Now You See Me. I find it hard to get invested when I know it’s going to be the same story just with the characters named different things. One thing I will say for Le Cercle Rouge though, is that we do get some time to get to know the characters involved. The film doesn’t rely on stereotypes to sell the characters and get straight to the action. It’s a relaxed pace movie, to be sure. But I appreciate that we do get time to know them as people first.
I can see how a lot of later movies may have been informed by this one. It feels very much like a pulp novel, and looks pretty and slick as Hell. But it just didn’t hold my attention. I was just waiting for them to get to the next step in the story. Okay, they’ve done the heist now so… we need to know if they’re being betrayed or not. Oh they are? fine, fine.
Does it make me love the people? Okay but men in movies who talk to their cats immediately get a pass. But, I found it hard to care about these characters. The nightmare sequence was probably as close as I got to feeling for one of them, and it was freaky. The cleverness was about all they had going for them, but then they were brought down so seemingly easily at the end. Eh.
Bechdel test: No, I don’t think there’s a single named woman. There’s lots and lots of dancing girls and a naked woman and a cigarette sales girl, but none of them get to speak and certainly not to each other.
All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.
State of Mind: Well made, if slow. The heist sequence was pretty neat, but… ehhh. I was bored. It didn’t keep my attention because I couldn’t care about the characters.