Influenced by American cinema, especially the crime dramas of the 1930s and 1940s, Jean-Pierre Melville created a unique cinematic vision that paid homage to that notable genre while reinventing it. His films reflect a tragic, minimalist, and subversive directorial voice that would influence the French New Wave, as well as generations of international filmmakers, such as Quentin Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai. To celebrate the centenary of Melville's birth and his importance as a filmmaker, we will explore four of his more influential works.
BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956) is a stylish, witty film about the gamblers in Montmartre. Melville turns the doom-laden fatalism of film noir into a playful, improvisational jazz riff reflected in the free-spirited camerawork of Henri Decaë (JULES AND JIM), the Bogart-esque cool of Bob, and the insouciant eroticism of the young woman Bob protects. ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969), informed by Melville’s involvement in the French Resistance during World War II, follows a small band of Resistance fighters as they attempt to evade capture. It is a war film that resembles a crime thriller, and this generic ambiguity provides insight into Melville's attitude toward crime and criminals.
LE CERCLE ROUGE (1970) brings together screen legends Alain Delon and Yves Montand in one of the crowning achievements of French noir. The legendary, half hour-long heist sequence culminates in an unforgettable climax that affirms the adage, “All men are criminals,” while reminding us of the humanity residing in each man. Melville's final film, UN FLIC (1972), stars Delon as a stoic cop in pursuit of a thief (Richard Crenna), with Catherine Deneuve, as the femme fatale torn between them. The filmmaker conveys the emotional and erotic undercurrents among his characters through a sub-textual code of wardrobe, decor, and glances. In this regard, UN FLIC becomes essential viewing for anyone interested in understanding the world of Jean-Pierre Melville, and a fitting conclusion to this course.
Class meets at BMFI:
4 Mondays, March 19 to April 9, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
$100 for members, $125 for non-members
Taught by Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University
Register for this course at http://bit.ly/2zmTA7Q or by calling (610) 527-4008 x108.