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France 1955
Directed by
Jean Pierre Melville
98 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Bob Le Flambeur

Bob Le Flambeur was Melville’s fifth film but the first that deal with the Parisian crime world, subject matter for which he is best known.  Purposefully flat, presumably exemplifying the phlegmatic fatalism that defines the title character, If this tends to make the film rather narrow in dramatic range, Henri Decaë’s black and white location photography is a treat from beginning to end and the film offers many rewards in this respect.

Bob Le Flambeur (Roger Duchesne), is a career criminal who has gone straight after doing time and lives from gambling. His luck has run out however and so he decides to pull a big job. Although the police get wind of the job, Bob decides to go ahead with it anyway. Whilst it is not clear why Bob proceeds with the heist (and the flip ending also seems incongruous given that his protégé has just lost his life ) Melville’s interest in depicting a fatalistic moral universe rather than plot details is paramount and it is this quality for which he is most influential particularly on the Nouvelle Vague of French cinema  that was not far away (Melville appears in Godard’s  pioneering  Breathless, 1959, as a director interviewed by Jean Seberg).




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