Le deuxième souffle (1966)
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Jean-Pierre Melville's Le deuxième souffle may just be my favorite of his French noir films, though Le Samuraï is more accomplished. His last in lustrous black and white, it's the story of an escaped convict doing one last job to get enough money to leave the country. But this isn't a one-man show. Melville introduces us to many characters, on both sides of the law, and gives the film enough scope to make the various relationships work as more than "types". It feels lived in. And in a sense, the audience's rush to try and catch up in the first act is a shade of what Gu (Lino Ventura's protagonist) must be going through, after a few years in the clink. Blazing noir dialog (especially in the original French) abounds despite Melville's reputation for silent sequences (which he indulges in here too, and no one ever says something fake-sounding "for the audience" in any case). It's Paul Meurisse as Inspector Blot (pronounced Blow, but great name either way) who really makes the film. He's tracking Gu with flair and charm, someone who understands the rules of this world and takes no little pleasure in playing the "nemesis". His every scene is brilliant.
Great French gangster flick. One of Jean-Pierre Melville's best.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #239 in TimeOut's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #317 in The British Film Institute: 360 Classics
This movie ranks #472 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #577 in TSPDT 1000 Noir Films
This movie ranks #683 in Sight and Sound 2012 - Combined List
This movie ranks #956 in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?