Monday 31 December 2012

Un Flic (Dirty Money) [1972]

Un Flic, Jean-Pierre Melville’s final film, wasn’t just an excellent swansong for the French auteur, it was also the perfect follow-up to his previous film, Le Cercle Rouge. Like the latter movie, this too was a stylish and existential thriller centered on a heist; but, while Alain Delon played the role of a laconic criminal in the earlier film, he swapped places to the more agreeable side of law here – yet in either case it didn’t end on a happy note for his character. The film begins with a bank robbery on a particularly rainy day, staged by 4 men led by Simon (Richard Crenna), a nightclub owner. Ironically, Commissioner Coleman (Delon) happens to be a friend of Simon and a regular visitor to his nightclub; he’s even having an affair on the sly with Simon’s platinum blonde fiancée (Catherine Deneuve). Coleman has utmost derision towards criminals and bends the law whenever necessary to get his job done; he leads his life and does his work in the most cold, jaded and existentially detached manner imaginable. The measured pace with which the plot moves forward, alternately focusing on the two opposing sides, allowed terrific development of the various characters, as well as, superb build-up of the film’s mood and palpably melancholic tone. The atmospheric, washed out visuals brilliantly evoked the perpetual sense of doom and fatalism that the film has been gift wrapped with, leading to the underplayed but subtly affecting climax. The performances, in sync with Melville’s style, were completely restrained. An audacious drug robbery scene, carried out by Simon on a moving train, remains one of the hallmarks for the film.

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Post-Noir
Language: French
Country: France

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