Crime cinema has never been so meticulously and coolly executed. Taciturn thief Alain Delon (intense and dapper in trenchcoat and fedora) and escaped prisoner Gian Maria Volonte cross paths as if by fate, bound by saving each other's life, and join with disgraced ex-cop Yves Montand for their next job: a daring jewel robbery. Le Cercle Rouge
is the ultimate expression of the romantic doom that Jean-Pierre Melville established in his masterpieces Bob Le Flambeur
and Le Samourai
. The centerpiece heist, a wordless 20-minute sequence with masked men communicating in codified gestures, is a tour de force of cinematic efficiency that tops even Rififi
in its celebration of criminal skill and nerve. Melville's cool detachment doesn't allow us to really warm up to these uncompromising pros, but his cinematic precision is spellbinding and his unforgiving world of loyalty, professionalism, sacrifice, and codes of honor is an irresistible underworld fantasy.
The Criterion DVD restores the film, which was originally cut by 40 minutes for its American release, to its full-length director's cut. Additionally, it features new interviews with Melville's assistant director Bernard Stora and friend and expert Rui Nogueira, rare archival interviews with the director and his cast, and a new introduction by filmmaker and Melville fan John Woo among its wealth of supplements. --Sean Axmaker
Alain Delon (The Leopard, Le samouraï) plays a master thief, fresh out of prison, who crosses paths with a notorious escapee and an alcoholic ex-cop (The Wages of Fear’s Yves Montand). The unlikely trio plot a heist, against impossible odds, and then a relentless inspector and their own pasts seal their fates. Le cercle rouge, from Jean-Pierre Melville (Le samouraï, Army of Shadows), combines honorable antiheroes, coolly atmospheric cinematography, and breathtaking set pieces to create a masterpiece of crime cinema.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • Restored, complete, uncut version, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Excerpts from Cinéastes de notre temps: “Jean-Pierre Melville” • Video interviews with assistant director Bernard Stora and Rui Nogueria, the author of Melville on Melville • Thirty minutes of rare on-set and archival footage, featuring interviews with director Jean-Pierre Melville and stars Alain Delon, Yves Montand, and André Bourvil • Original theatrical trailer and 2003 Rialto Pictures rerelease trailer • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critics Michael Sragow and Chris Fujiwara, excerpts from Melville on Melville, a reprinted interview with composer Eric Demarsan, and an appreciation from director John Woo