Monday, January 14, 2013

Bob le flambeur

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville and written by Melville and Auguste le Breton, Bob le flambeur (Bob the Gambler) is the story of a gambler who decides to rob a casino by planning a heist with a group of men. The film is an exploration into the planning of a heist as a man is determined to end his losing streak as well as hoping to get one last score. Starring Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, and Guy Decomble. Bob le flambeur is a mesmerizing yet engaging film from Jean-Pierre Melville.

Bob Montagne (Roger Duchesne) is a notorious gambler currently dealing with a losing streak as he had just been out of prison while finds himself surrounded by lots of things around him. While he’s being watched by police investigator named Ledru (Guy Decomble), Bob maintains a low profile as he later meets a young man named Paolo (Daniel Cauchy) who has been hanging around with a seedy pimp named Marc (Gerard Buhr). Bob shows Paolo the ropes while they later meet a beautiful young woman named Anne (Isabelle Corey) who is intrigued by Bob though she finds herself in the company of Paolo. When Bob meets his friend Roger (Andre Garet), Roger reveals that he knows a croupier (Claude Cerval) at the Deauville Casino who claims that there’s 800 million francs in a vault.

Bob decides to stage a heist as he and Roger organize the heist very carefully as Paolo gets involved in the hopes to get off the clutches of Marc. For Bob, it’s the chance to live a retired life and not succumb to his losing streak. Things start of well as Roger even finds out what kind of safe is used for the heist, something eventually goes wrong when outside forces start to know what is going on making Bob nervous. Bob thinks about shutting the heist down until Paolo does something that would ease things. On the night of the heist where everything is set, Bob still feels uneasy where he would do something in the hopes to find another way to score big.

The film is essentially the story of a gambler making the ultimate gamble by planning a casino heist in order to have one last score. Notably as he hopes that a police investigator gets off his back while giving a young man and a young woman a chance to live a life outside of crime. Still, he is very careful about making sure things don’t go wrong yet things would go wrong where it would reveals about what not to do when one is involved in a heist. This would eventually lead to all sorts of complications forcing this down-on-his-luck gambler to find a way to succeed.

The screenplay by Jean-Pierre Melville and Auguste le Breton definitely plays to the element of film noir and the heist film where there’s a lot of rules and conventions that are featured. In the element of noir, there’s a man looking for a score as he gains a protégé to work with while he meets this young woman who is very interested in him. Bob Montagne is a man dealing with not just a losing streak but also irrelevancy in the crime world as there’s a lot happening around him including a pimp who is making deals all over town and taking whatever he can to succeed. By taking on this casino heist, Bob hopes to get away from the world of crime as he is careful about making sure nothing goes wrong. Yet, things would go wrong in the schematic of things where it reveals what not to do when one is involved in a heist. It would cause all sorts of implications making others nervous as the police would be involved.

Melville’s direction is definitely stylish in the way he presents the planning of the heist as well as the drama that unfolds in its titular character. While some of the visual aspects and scenarios are in the traditional of film noir in terms of the framing. Melville does play with those schematics in order to do something different where not many people play to the traditional archetype of film noir. Notably in the way he would use noir to present the motivation that Bob is looking for to set up the heist while Melville would briefly narrate in order to establish key moments of what Bob is doing.

Melville’s approach to the heist set up is unique in the way he slowly plays things out through some stylish shots including a wide shot of where Bob reveals to those he’s working with in how things have to play out. Still, it’s obvious something goes wrong as there’s this sense of tension that occurs late in the film where Bob becomes uneasy but what could go wrong. The film’s last 10 minutes are the most interesting as the focus is on Bob checking to see if everything is in place but something is amiss. The ending is also ambiguous for not what happens to him but to his whole crew. Overall, Melville creates a very masterful and intricate crime film that does a whole lot more than what is expected in the genre.

Cinematographer Henri Decae does fantastic work with the film‘s black-and-white photography from some of the entrancing, noir-style interiors to set a mood to the day and nighttime exteriors to maintain an air of suspense as well as a thriving energy of what happens in Paris. Editor Monique Bonnot does brilliant work with the editing that is definitely stylized with transitional fade-outs and wipes as well as rhythmic cuts that would later become the basis for the jump-cut. Set pieces by Claude Bouxin does wonderful work with the sets from the clubs and bars that Bob hangs out to the look of the Deauville Casino.

The costumes of Ted Ladipus are terrific for the clothes the men wear that plays to the noir genre as well as the stylish clothes of Anne. The sound work of Pierre Philippenko and Jacques Carrere is superb for its low-key sound in the casino as well as places set on location. The music of Eddie Barclay and Jo Boyer is a delight to hear for its mixture of playful jazz and ominous orchestral music to play out the suspense.

The film’s excellent ensemble cast includes some notable small roles from Claude Cerval as the croupier who gets involved in the heist, Colette Fleury as the croupier’s wife, and Gerard Buhr as the slimy pimp Marc. Andre Garet is wonderful as Bob’s associate Roger who helps him organize the heist while making sure Bob doesn’t fall prey to gambling. Guy Decomble is superb as police inspector Ledru who is keeping an eye on Bob to make sure he doesn’t get himself in trouble while waiting for him to screw up. Daniel Cauchy is great as the young criminal Paolo who learns the ropes of what it takes to succeed while his infatuation with Anne would eventually cause some problems.

Isabelle Corey is amazing as the young woman Anne who is a mixture of girlish innocence and intoxicating sexuality as someone who is intrigued by Bob. Finally, there’s Roger Duchesne in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as an aging gambler who knows his best days are behind him as he deals with a losing streak and irrelevancy as he is determined to make one final score.

Bob le flambeur is a masterfully-crafted crime film from Jean-Pierre Melville. Featuring outstanding performances from Roger Duchesne and Isabelle Corey, it’s a film that definitely takes the conventions of film noir and heist films and create something that is very different. Notably in exemplifying on what not to do which raises the dramatic stakes as it leads to a very engaging third act. In the end, Bob le flambeur is an incredible film from Jean-Pierre Melville.

Jean-Pierre Melville Films: 24 Hours in the Life of a Clown - Le Silence de la mer - Les Enfants terribles - (Quand tu liras cette lettre) - (Two Men in Manhattan) - (Leon Morin, Priest) - (Le Doulos) - Magnet of Doom - Le deuxieme souffle - Le Samourai - Army of Shadows - Le Cercle rouge - (Un flic)

© thevoid99 2013

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