Jean-Pierre Melville

"Critic Raymond Durgnat has said of Melvillian heroes that they are "cool cats that walk by themselves". Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino and Michael Mann all acknowledge a debt to Melvillian codes and dynamics, and it is difficult to imagine revisionist noir without Melville." - Richard Armstrong (The Rough Guide to Film, 2007)

Jean-Pierre Melville

Director / Screenwriter / Actor / Producer / Editor
(1917-1973) Born October 20, Paris, France
Top 250 Directors

Key Production Countries: France, Italy
Key Genres: Post-Noir (Modern Noir), Crime, Crime Thriller, Drama, Caper, Gangster Film, Romantic Drama, War Drama, Police Detective Film, Psychological Drama, Thriller
Key Collaborators: Henri Decae (Cinematographer), Monique Bonnot (Editor), Daniel Guéret (Production Designer), Jean-Marie Robain (Character Actor), Alain Delon (Leading Actor), Jean-Paul Belmondo (Leading Actor), Théobald Meurisse (Production Designer), Howard Vernon (Character Actor), Monique Hennessy (Character Actress), Jean-Pierre Posier (Character Actor), Paul Crauchet (Character Actor), Nicole Stephane (Leading Actress)

"Melville gained most fame for such dry, laconic gangster films as Bob le flambeur (1955), Le Doulos (1962), Second Breath (1966), and Le Samourai (1967). Expressionless men in trenchcoats and snap-brim hats stalk through gray streets to meet in piano bars. Almost completely impassive, they behave as if they have watched too many Hollywood films noirs -driving American sedans, pledging loyalty to their pals, dividing duties for a caper they intend to pull. Melville dwells on long silences as gunmen size each other up, stare at their reflections, or stoically realize that a deal has failed. The films teem with bravura techniques - hand-held camerawork, long takes, and available-light shooting… Melville loved to watch movies. ("Being a spectator is the finest profession in the world.") Many of his films are tributes to American cinema, and he brought to French film some of the audacious energy of Hollywood B pictures. If Renoir fathered the New Wave, Melville was its godfather." - Kristin Thompson & David Bordwell (Film History: An Introduction, 2003)
"Melville was a precise, methodical director with a predilection for themes of war and crime. The former preoccupation was attributable to his own experiences, and the latter was the probable result of his nostalgic admiration for the Hollywood cinema of the 30s... Beginning in the early 60s, Melville worked with larger budgets and with name stars like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon and showed an increasingly technical mastery of the medium." - The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994
"He had a built-in breathlessness, in fact, an adopted resignation to transience and mutability that is partly an eccentric individualism and partly what Melville inherited from American mobility and obsolescence. It gives his gangster films a true supercharge - "en quatrième vitesse" - and he transformed Belmondo and Delon into beautiful destructive angels of the dark street." - David Thomson (The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, 2002)
"Powerful endings and memorable set-pieces have a place in all Melville's work, even the earlier films, some of which are far removed from his later world of 'flics' and gangs', where the night-time photography glitters as cold and metallic as a gun barrel." - David Quinlan (Quinlan's Film Directors, 1999)
"Betrayal, revenge, and the criminal mind are significant elements in the work of Melville. His films are not so much reflections of the Hollywood crime genre as indications of a unique sensibility creating from the same source material - crime and criminals." - William R. Meyer (The Film Buff's Catalog, 1978)
TSPDT Guide
Highly Recommended
Bob le flambeur (1955) , Le Doulos (1962), Second Breath (1966) , Le Samouraï (1967) ✖︎, The Red Circle (1970)
Recommended
Le Silence de la mer (1947), Les Enfants terribles (1949), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), Army of Shadows (1969) , Dirty Money (1972)
Worth a Look
Léon Morin, Priest (1961), Magnet of Doom (1963)
Acclaimed Films / IMDB Filmography
1,000 Greatest Films ✖︎ 1,000 Noir Films
Amazon Products
Films / Books
    Le Doulos
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