Cinema Reborn : Jean-Pierre Melville RETROSPECTIVE

Experience this thrilling retrospective of the work of French film-maker Jean-Pierre Melville, one of the great names of cinema in the second half of the 20th century.

Throughout his 25-year career, Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-73) made a total of 13 features. His “sensibility” can be traced through such formative influences as existentialism, surrealism, classic American gangster films, poetic realism and the America author Herman Melville (from whom he took his name).

In recent years, a number of Melville’s greatest films have been digitally remastered and re-presented in the classic restorations sections of the major European and American film festivals. This work has recently been crowned by the magnificent restoration of one of his greatest films Red Circle (Le Cercle Rouge) which screened this month at the Venice Film Festival.

The Randwick Ritz is now offering a selection of six stunning restorations of Jean-Pierre Melville’s intensely unique cinema. It covers early work that influenced the French New Wave, two films which recall Melville’s own brave role as a combatant in the French Resistance during WW2 and key late career works devoted to the crime genre with French icons Alain Delon Lino Ventura and Catherine Deneuve - films which influenced future generations of filmgoers including Quentin Tarantino, John Woo and Michael Mann.

Each film in the series will be introduced by leading Sydney film critics and scholars, who will set the scene for this master film-maker's works. 


Sunday October 4
Le Cercle Rouge/Red Circle
A man is released from a 5-year prison term on the same day a convicted murderer escapes from a train. The two men’s paths cross and, together with an alcoholic ex-cop, they plan the perfect heist (an astonishing, completely wordless 30-minute masterstroke). This was Melville’s biggest commercial success in France and perhaps his most perfectly realised crime film. The flawless cast features a set of quintessential Melvillian trench coated anti-heroes played by Alain Delon, Yves Montand and Gian Maria Volonté

Sunday October 11
Bob Le Flambeur
Melville’s highly influential, playful gangster film lovingly sketches Montmartre as both a realistic geography and a cartoon milieu of two-bit criminal Paris. An homage to the mood and atmosphere of the American gangster film, its low-budget joie de vivre and existential world-weariness paved the way for the nouvelle vague. Evocatively shot and featuring a magnificently cool and knowing performance by Roger Duchesne as the compulsive gambler Bob

Sunday October 18
Le Doulos
One must choose. To die… or to lie.” Melville’s rigorously directed and intricately plotted tale of self-defined morality in the criminal underworld focuses on a convict who seeks revenge for the murder of his girlfriend. This is the first of Melville’s explicitly modernist crime films in which the world created appears predetermined, patterned, curiously abstract, almost geometric. Serge Reggiani and Jean-Paul Belmondo perfectly ‘impersonate’ the Hollywood film noir anti-heroes so admired by the director since the early 1930s. Also features Michel Piccoli.

Sunday October 25
Léon Morin (1961)
A priest helps a disillusioned war widow during WWII. Considered by some as his first ‘mature’ work, Melville’s quiet film explores the psychology and humanity of the priest (a soulful and restrained Jean-Paul Belmondo) and the woman (an intense Emmanuelle Riva) through a series of moral, aesthetic and theological discussions set against the meticulously detailed period of the Occupation. Shot by regular collaborators Henri Decaë and Jean Rabier, with assistant direction from Volker Schlöndorff

Sunday November 1
L’Armée des Ombres/Army of Shadows
Bad memories, welcome… you are my long lost youth.” Often seen as a transposition of Melville’s beloved gangster genre to the underworld of the Resistance in wartime France, this unbearably moving reverie faithfully adapts Joseph Kessel’s seminal novel to the screen. The film’s dream-like, almost clandestine sense of geography, place and period is matched to the soulful, autumnal mood created by cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. Perhaps the greatest cinematic testament to the lived experience of the French Resistance. Featuring beautifully modulated performances by Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse and Simone Signoret

Sunday November 8
Un Flic
Melville’s last film is an ideal - if bracingly pessimistic - final testament. Opening with one of the greatest sequences of the director’s career, a brilliantly atmospheric and typically elemental seaside heist, it provides a distillation of Melville’s career and his characteristically obsessive preoccupations. A melancholic and metallic blue sheen imbues the film and its characters with a death-like pallor fully appropriate to this fatalistic tale. It focuses on the relentless pursuit of criminals and the close bond between the almost somnambulistic detective (Alain Delon) and the chief suspect (Richard Crenna). With Catherine Deneuve