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Bob Le Flambeur (The Criterion Collection)
Suffused with wry humor, Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur melds the toughness of American gangster films with Gallic sophistication to lay the roadmap for the French New Wave. As the neon is extinguished for another dawn, an aging gambler navigates the treacherous world of pimps, moneymen, and naïve associates while plotting one last score-the heist of the Deauville casino. This underworld comedy of manners possesses all the formal beauty, finesse and treacherous allure of green baize.
A singular masterpiece that served as a clarion call for the coming French New Wave, this 1955 love letter to the city of Paris and the American urban noir films of the 1930s and 1940s is precisely the sort of cinematic consideration of genre influences that became the soul of early works by Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Claude Chabrol. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (a filmmaker so enamored of American culture he adopted the name of Moby Dick's author), Bob le Flambeur (Bob the Gambler) concerns a courtly gangster who plans on robbing a casino. But the film is less about the trappings of a conventional heist tale than about Melville's embrace of the form and his wistful weavings within it. The title character (Roger Duchesne) is almost a knight errant, with a visible gallantry and code of loyalty suggesting Melville's own dreams of film tradition, reinvented into something both faithful and new. A terrific experience and an important sliver of film history. --Tom Keogh --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Director Jean-Pierre Melville pretty much invented the French crime film. After World War II Melville (real last name Grumbach), made films on a shoestring, on location and without stars. He was alone among all French filmmakers who made pictures entirely on his terms. This 1955 film, with a budget about ten times bigger than a typical French film of its time, is also a loving portrait of Paris and an homage to the noirish American films of the 40s and early 50s. Especially John Huston's "Asphalt Jungle."
Roger Duchesne is Bob, a courtly gangster with a natty style not unlike the late mobster kingpin Gotti, who plans on robbing the Deauville casino. But the film is not so much about the details of Bob's one last heist as it is about playing with the genre itself. Bob is a dark knight with a code of loyalty that conflicts with the amorality of his profession just as the filmmaker Melville toys with the makings of a new film tradition. A terrific film that beats the old and new versions of "Ocean's Eleven."
This new digital transfer, like all Criterion discs, is superb. Extras include an interview with Daniel Cauchy ("Paulo") and a radio interview with director Melville, who was so enamored of American culture that he took the last name of Moby Dick's author.
Yep. It's French film noir yet the protagonist is involved rather than existentially detatched. He's (gasp!) likeable.
Which is why the young hood imitates him---they tease him by calling him 'Bob' too---and the cops respect him. Besides he's too busy scraping together gambling money to affect a tough guy persona. He's cool without trying.
This one's a gem of stylized realism. Gritty without being grimy. The denizens of Montmatre that inhabit Melville's film may be sewer rats but they behave with panache. They are losers but never bitter. The most hardened yet romantic bunch of bad guys you're ever likely to encounter.
The one sour note is what time has done to this film. It has copied it endlessly. Do not be surprised if you feel deja vu when watching it for the first time. It's hard to name all the other flicks have ripped off bits and pieces of the plot throughout the years.
What is that saying about the sincerest form of flattery?
It's just a great movie: it's meticulously crafted, there's nothing falsely intellectual about it, and it's interesting to see how much influence this has had on all the heist films that have followed.
'Bob' is stylish, leisurely paced, and NOT a caper flick (or barely qualifies as one). The film is not about a heist, it is about Mr. Bob and his all-consuming passion for gambling. Gambling is his sustenance, his downfall, and his savior. Women only seem to bring trouble (except for Yvonne, the cafe owner). How he acts and thinks, his values and judgments, are part of the old world of gangster-gentlemen which doesn't exist any more. It is, like many French films, a study in character, and what an interesting character it is!
Firstly, I want to protest for the umpteenth time the pernicious, misleading, and -------- yes, I have to say it ------ dishonest practice of both wings of this otherwise admirable company in lumping together reviews of widely disparate versions of the same film so that you have no idea which of the several available products any particular review is describing. This makes utter nonsense of the scoring system which ought to be a better guide than it usually is.
Secondly, I want to express my astonishment at the 4-star ratings of many who gave rave notices in their text. I am left wondering what flaws that they did not report justified withholding the final star.
Thirdly, I resent the remarks of those who have judged this film, for good or for bad, by that silly and meaningless term: film noir. Although it is a film about crime and those who commit and prevent it, it is above all an Art film in which gangsters and police happen to be the major protagonists. Unlike RIFFIFI, compared with which some reviewers offered an unfavourable evaluation, no attempt whatever is made to create suspense.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Jean Pierre Melville deserves to be included with the ranks of Kubrick or Hitchcock. If you're even bothering to read this, just buy the movie already.Published on Oct. 7 2009 by Joel Macdonald
Most people reading the reviews I assume already know of the movie and are thinking about buying it because they can't find it or because they've seen it and like it. Read morePublished on March 10 2004
Wonderful to look at with nice shots of Montmatre at night and a good opening during a Paris dawn. Also, the "bad" girl Anne is worth looking at twice. Read morePublished on Jan. 13 2003 by Fleurbleue
I first saw this movie at a local film festival a year ago and fell in love with it. The characters are fascinating, ones you want to revisit again and again. Read morePublished on Oct. 11 2002 by Wally Conger
In P.T. Anderson's commentary for HARD EIGHT, he talks about how this film was a big influence and that he probably owes Melville some money. I'd have to agree. Read morePublished on April 15 2002
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