Friday 22 February 2013
Le Deuxième Souffle 
Melville’s name is generally associated with Le Samourai and Army of Shadows, and to a lesser extent, Bob Le Flambeur and Les Enfants Terribles. But he made a number of lesser known masterworks – Le Deuxieme Souffle, Le Cercle Rouge, Un Flic et al are marvelous examples of that. This fabulous gangster and heist film remains an archetypal elucidation of cool, palpable existentialism and doom-laden fatalism – the kind that’s bound to end in tragedy for its protagonists. The film begins with veteran criminal Gustave (Lino Ventura) escaping from prison. His plan is to escape to a life of solitude with the help of his beautiful and resourceful sister Manouche (Christine Fabrega). However three things stand in his way to bliss and freedom – the cynical but brilliant Inspector Blot (Paul Meurisse) who’s doggedly pursuing him, an antagonistic mobster, and the irrepressible allure of one final job. The job, which dealt with the spectacular robbing of platinum bars worth millions from an armoured car, goes as per plan, but that provides the final knell in his coffin. The tar-drenched tone and themes of honour among thieves, the inevitability of fate, and the concept of a lone shark, were superbly accentuated by the moody and expressionistic B/W photography and the minimally used score. Ventura gave an outstanding turn reminiscent of his towering performance in Army of Shadows, as did Meurisse as the world-weary cop, while the other actors, too, were eminently watchable. Though timed at 150 minutes, this exquisitely paced, brilliantly characterized and memorably atmospheric film kept me glued right from the tense first scene to the unforgettably staged finale.
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Genre: Crime Thriller/Gangster Film/Heist Film/Existential Thriller/Post-Noir