JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE: CRIME FILM MASTERWORKS
An independent within the French production system, Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973) has been celebrated for his minimalist dramas that explore the criminal underbelly of society. Melville’s tragic tales of cops and crooks, showgirls and gamblers have had a significant influence on a number of contemporary filmmakers, from Walter Hill to Quentin Tarantino to Johnnie To. Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach, Melville served in the French Resistance during WWII and this series will include the director’s most personal effort, the recently rediscovered Army of Shadows (1969).
- Sat., Aug. 31 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
This playful, romantic casino caper flick was the first in a series of stylish films noir made by French director Melville in tribute to the classic American genre of the ’40s and ’50s. Here, the primary influence is clearly Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, as Bob, an old gambler and gangster strapped for cash, assembles a team of professional hoods to rob a well-guarded casino.
- Sat., Sep. 7 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Doulos is French gangster talk for a squealer and Belmondo plays Silien, a hood who just may be the stool pigeon responsible for a heist gone bad. Interrogated by the police and hunted by the underworld, Silien remains an enigma to the other characters and the audience until the film’s final moments. Filled with heart-stopping twists and thrills, this jazzy and enormously stylish French thriller has influenced numerous directors, including Quentin Tarantino and John Woo.
- Sat., Sep. 14 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
In France during the final year of the German occupation, a group of resistance agents find their plans subverted from without and within. Melville puts aside his celebrated but emotionally distant style for this profoundly moving yet still enormously suspenseful story of men and women who must betray their own humanity for the sake of their struggle. The fine cast includes cinema luminary Signoret in one of her greatest performances. Somehow, Melville’s masterpiece went undistributed in this country until 2006, when the New York Times critic Manohla Dargis proclaimed it the best film of the year!
- Sat., Sep. 21 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
In another classic Melville gangster saga, Delon, Volontè, and Montand play a criminal trio masterminding a jewel heist. Austerely stylish, Melville’s wonderfully tense and philosophical film provides a great showcase for three of European cinema’s finest performers. "[Melville]'s movie involves an escaped prisoner, a diamond heist, a police manhunt and mob vengeance, but it treats these elements as the magician treats his cards; the cards are insignificant, except as the medium through which he demonstrates his skills...There is one cool, understated scene after another." (Roger Ebert)
- Sat., Sep. 28 | 7:00 PM4070 Vilas Hall
Delon stars as a detective hunting down a gang of bank robbers led by a nightclub owning acquaintance (played by Rambo mentor Crenna). Tension mounts as the men circle each other and the woman they both love, showgirl Deneuve. Melville’s final film is as cool and taut as ever, bookended by two extended heist sequences that rank among the best of his career. (MK)