Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Le deuxième souffle (1966)

This movie was based on José Giovanni's book, so I could guess that the story would be about police vs recidivist. The center character, Gu, played by Lino Ventura, is not only a recidivist, but also a fugitive. His girlfriend plans his escape to another country, but he joins a dangerous heist to have 200m before leaving France.

In my first viewing, the movie was difficult to understand, especially the first part. There were too many characters, at least when compared to Jean-Pierre Melville's other movies I had seen. I was thinking to stop the DVD and started again from the beginning, but decided to go on. In my 2nd viewing, I listened to the commentary by Ginette Vincendeau and Geoff Andrew, which was very useful. [Before that, I read Vincendeau's book 'An American in Paris'. ] I think this was the first time Ginette Vincendeau gave commentary during the whole movie, usually she only gave introduction or commented on several chosen chapters.

Le deuxième souffle (=The Second Wind. I have no idea what the title means. Gu's 2nd chance? Because this happens after he escaped from jail.) is Melville's last black and white movie. He would keep making b&w movies if the producers let him. However, I prefer his colour movies because I love how he chose the colours. My father couldn't remember if Un flic was in colour or b&w 1 day after watching and he was amazed when I told him that it was in colour.

I like the heist scene here, how the guys waiting that one of them finally examines the ants. The commentary mentioned how little the amount of blood, and that is exactly what I like about Melville's works. I recommended Le Samouraï to a friend, telling her about this beautiful movie about a hitman, but almost no violence, and that the blood in the whole movie I could remember was the scratch on Alain Delon's hand.

Le deuxième souffle was made after 3 years of inactivity. Melville said he had waited for a good subject. The result, as we have seen, was wonderful. I was somehow disappointed with the disappearance of the torture scene. After more than 40 years, I hoped that perhaps in the new release, the scene would be restored, but no. As Ms. Vincendeau said in the commentary, that would explain why Fardiano felt guilty enough that he agreed to write a confession. Does Fardiano think that Gu will let him go after writing it? The closing scene is very good: Inspector Blot (played by Paul Meurisse in one of his best roles) 'gives' Fardiano's confession to journalists. Blot and Gu belong to opposite sides, but they respect each other. What will Blot gain by exposing the confession? But in this case, he restores Gu's honour so Gu doesn't die in vain.

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