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A Blu Red Circle

“The Buddha took a piece of red chalk and drew a circle, saying: ‘When men, though unaware of it, must meet again someday, they may follow diverging paths to the given day when, ineluctably, they will be reunited within the red circle.'” — Rama Krishna

“All men are guilty.” — L’inspecteur général de la police

While watching Studio Canal’s newly released Blu-ray of Le Cercle Rouge, it struck me that Jean-Pierre Melville is to the French crime film what Sergio Leone is to the Spaghetti western: Melville, like Leone, made outrageously entertaining films that reflected a punch-drunk love for American genre fare, the conventions of which he inflated to a near-operatic scale after refracting them through his own unique cultural sensibility. And there is evidence that Melville wanted Le Cercle Rouge to be his magnum opus, as Once Upon a Time in the West was for Leone; it was his penultimate film and is permeated by a mood of fatalism even more pronounced than usual for this master of film noir. At times it feels like an epic, self-conscious attempt to outdo every heist picture ever made, including The Asphalt Jungle, Rififi and Melville’s own Le Doulos. As a series of bravura set pieces and a statement of existential despair, it just might succeed.

The quote that begins Le Cercle Rouge is a bit of nonsense attributed to Rama Krishna but apparently invented by Melville himself to justify the chief narrative contrivance of his plot: Vogel (Gian Maria Volante), a murderer who has just escaped police custody, seeks refuge in the car trunk of Corey (Alain Delon – to Melville what Clint Eastwood was to Leone), a man he has never met but who happens to be a master criminal just released from prison. The two form a fast friendship and immediately conspire to rob a jewelry store with the aid of one of Vogel’s acquaintances, an alcoholic ex-cop named Jansen (French icon Yves Montand).

Vogel and Corey aren’t the only two characters fated to meet within the “red circle.” Joining them is Mattei (Bourvil), a police detective hot on the trail of Vogel who appears to be the opposite number of our criminal protagonists while being simultaneously cut from the same cloth as them. Mattei describes himself as a “hunter” and Vogel as “intelligent prey”; in other words, while on opposite sides of the law, he considers Vogel a worthy adversary. (Mattei is also visually linked to Corey through his steely blue eyes, trench coat and fedora.) At first, Mattei balks at his superior’s claim that men are born innocent but, without exception, become guilty during the course of their lives. By the end of the film, however, he seems to recognize the tragic kinship he has with the men he is hunting. They are all “guilty”; it’s just a question of to what degree.

The highlight of Le Cercle Rouge is the film’s climactic heist sequence, which is sustained for an exhilarating twenty five minutes (about 20% of the film’s two hour and twenty minute running time) and contains no dialogue. We watch, hypnotized, as the trio of robbers break into the building, take a security guard hostage, disable a series of alarms and clear the joint out of $20 million dollars worth of merchandise. The surgical precision with which they pull off the operation is mirrored by the rigorousness of Melville’s elegant camera movements and deft cutting. This sequence, from the muted colors to the balletic choreography of the performers, is the epitome of cool. How cool is it? It’s so cool that you can’t help but feel cool just by watching it.

Because the film’s drama has its origins in Melville’s movie memories, it is arguable that the most prominent quality of Le Cercle Rouge is its cinephilia. In the age of Quentin Tarantino (who has repeatedly cited Melville as someone who proved you could make a movie if you simply loved movies enough), this may not sound like a big deal. But Melville was the prototypical cinephile-filmmaker, pre-dating the Nouvelle Vague by more than a decade and always examining genre conventions in a way that was both critical and playful. For instance, in Le Cercle Rouge you know who the characters are not because of what they say but because of their trench coats, fedoras and the fact that they smoke a lot. This iconic “costume,” based on the look of American movie gangsters, had been employed by Melville since the mid-1950s but by 1970, the sense of disconnect between the “real” France and Melville’s iconographic images was pronounced to the point of abstraction. The Paris of Le Cercle Rouge is a Paris that only existed in Melville’s imagination: a jazz-inflected, nocturnal world populated by professional, well-dressed and taciturn criminals, all of whom drive classic American cars. This is a Paris in which rock and roll and the Nouvelle Vague do not exist and the events of May 1968 never happened.

I hasten to add that Melville’s lack of engagement with contemporary society does not mean Le Cercle Rouge lacks a moral dimension. On the contrary, Melville’s morality is precisely the difference between him and most of his imitators and I would argue that the film’s theological inquiry into the nature of evil is its raison d’etre. Melville was deeply concerned with the concepts of right and wrong and there’s a sense in each of his films that he believed in the importance of conducting oneself the “right” way, especially in the face of certain death. Melville’s concept of the right way to live (and die) has to do with old fashioned values such as honor, loyalty to one’s friends and chivalry, all of which are exemplified by Delon’s Corey. Melville may even have had Corey in mind when he delivered one of my favorite of his many memorable quotes: “Classical cinema, basically, had to do with heroes, so-called modern cinema is to do with grubs. I have always refused to go along with this regression… I always arrange my characters – my ‘heroes’ – to conduct themselves within their environment, whatever it might be, the way I would conduct myself […] To be frank, I’m only able to become interested in characters who reflect some aspect of myself.” (Film Dope, 42, October 1989 p.16)

To paraphrase Marlene Dietrich in Touch of Evil, Melville must have been some kind of a man.

Studio Canal’s new high definition transfer of Le Cercle Rouge is unquestionably the best presentation the film has ever received on home video. It corrects every flaw in the standard definition Criterion release from several years ago. Most notably, it restores the film’s original deep-blue color scheme, which perversely skewed more towards green on the Criterion. It also sports a healthy amount of film grain; there were times when I felt like I was seeing a 35mm print being projected onto my television screen. Finally, it should be noted that this is a dark, dark movie. The interiors are illuminated by low-key lighting and the exteriors seem to always take place at night or during the day when everything is bathed in the indirect light of a dusky sunset. Because darkness has always been the enemy of compression, this Blu-ray represents a more substantial leap in quality than the typical HD upgrade.

Although Studio Canal has tended to be hit or miss in terms of Blu-ray image and sound quality thus far, Le Cercle Rouge is one of their most impressive releases, alongside of Belle de Jour. It is a very welcome addition to my library.

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

66 responses to “A Blu Red Circle

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    • James Hrajnoha

      I would like to say you made some very solid points about his love of American cinema with the trench coats and fedoras. Even if you never mentioned a love for it, it would of been very noticeable. Though I don’t consider that as something bad. As well its almost like a reverse Original Sin, where everyone is born with Original Sin. Though in this case its everyone is born innocent. Which is a very interesting concept that we are born innocent and become corrupted later. The heist scene is, at least for me, the climax of this movie and everything after is an epilogue.

  • Suzi Doll

    Alain Delon! Sigh!

  • Marie Chelle

    Nice Information.. Thx for sharing this

  • Joe Jackson

    So…last time I did a response online, it was to “A Man Escapes”…As many of you know, I did not like that movie. To me that movie represented a ton of trends I hate in film today and back then. Good thing that “Le Circle Rouge” is not “A Man Escapes”. To me, this is what the latter film wanted to do but failed at. Everything that makes a gangster movie is in this movie, a group of eccentric thieves aim for a big heist of 20 million dollars. We have everything, the marksman, the suave leader, the cops after them and the “one last job/I’m a changed man” speech at the beginning. It’s as classic feeling as you can get for a gangster/heist film.

    I compared the film to “A Man Escapes” and I mean that in a good way. While the performances in “Le Circle Rouge” isn’t quite as pronounced as other heist films out there, you do get a sense of their personalities a lot more. Corey is the intelligent tactician of the group, able to predict someone’s move at a mear notice, Vogel is the unhinged criminal who is the perfect comrade to Corey and Jansen is the suffering marksman. Even though they are on the same level of emotional range as “A Man Escapes” their actions are a lot more pronounced and distinguishable, making it so that the facial expressions are not nearly a problem. You get a sense of Corey from every move he makes, he get a sense of Vogel from every move he makes, it’s all there.

    A common recurring motif throughout the film is the “every man is guilty” idea. In that, no one is truly innocent, they have all done wrong. Jansen for example is a sympathetic character In that his addictions and firing from the police have damaged him psychologically to the point he partakes in criminal acts he probably would not have done in the first place. Corey was going to change his ways in the beginning before the power of greed gets to him and even smaller characters like the two teens distributing marijuana were probably desperate for some money in a way. This movie is not exactly a celebratory heist movie such as “Ocean’s Eleven” or “The Italian Job” where you celebrate the victory of the gangsters. This movie shows the heist as dangerous, dark and even unrewarding in a lot of ways. The heist itself is brilliantly shot and edited, a truly suspenseful scene but it is not exactly “woo hoo! They got the jewels”. A commonly pointed out trope of these movies is that no one roots for the cops but in this movie, you end up somewhat rooting for him. This is where the acting works as the heist crew and the police are portrayed in a balance. We root for the heist crew at first but then we see the genuine emotions and troubles with the officer and start to root for him. He isn’t even going after the crew most of the time, he’s mainly after Vigil, and it is easy to see why!

    This is a very well done gangster movie, up there with many of the great heist movies and it is easy to see why. The suspense is great, the editing is top notch, it’s a very likeable movie. At times it’s a little too slow but I still say the wait is wroth it.

    4 criminals in the trunk out of 5

  • Audrey Lee

    The reoccurring theme of morality is found in most of the films we’ve watched so far and since we’re dealing with human behavior, I’m learning that it’s not as clear cut as I once thought. This was no different when watching “The Red Circle” which says that every individual is guilty and “sinful” to a degree. I agree with Melville’s point of view and it was interesting how difficult it became to distinguish the “good guys” from the “bad guys” as this heist story evolved.

    Corey, Vogel and Jansen are criminals by society’s standards, but their “moral code” i.e. their loyalty to one another and immovable commitment to their heist seemed to somehow justify their criminal acts – a part of me hoped that they would be able to get away with it. As you’ve said, Melville’s idea of the “right way to live (and die) has to do with old fashioned values such as honor, loyalty to one’s friends and chivalry”. The trio’s lives (and death), no matter how immoral they are in the eyes of society, reflect the truth of these values lived out within their own circle.

    I believe that people are good at heart and can do enormous good, but I also think that we’re equally capable of causing harm to ourselves and others. If Melville had failed to capture the complexity of these characters first as human beings, it would have been easy to write Corey, Vogel and Jansen as evil. Setting their criminal acts aside, there were several moments throughout the film that revealed their struggles as human beings; Corey flipping through the photos of his ex-girlfriend on the day he’s released from prison, Vogel relying on the help of a stranger after escaping from Mattei and Jansen struggling with alcoholism. These scenes were essential to the film because their humanness is captured through them, and I sympathized with their experiences of loss and helplessness.

    On the other hand, knowing that Mattei is a police detective placed him in the “good guy” category – at first. But towards the end of the film, one of the cops on his team nearly kills Santi’s son at the cost of capturing Vogel. I was so shocked. I was reminded of “Eyes Without a Face” where Dr. Genessier, driven by his guilt and obsession, says, “I’ve done so much wrong to perform this miracle”. I realized that at the subconscious level, I expected Mattei to do nothing wrong because he’s a cop. Again, Melville points to the idea of morality reminds us that that truly, “all men are guilty”.

    Although it was a long film, it didn’t feel like it because of Melville’s minimalist and straightforward approach to storytelling. The lack of dialogue (the film shows rather than tells) and the characters’ undivided attention to their missions reflected his “essentialist” mise-en-scene. I was reminded of “A Man Escapes” where every movement and word spoken were focused and intentional. This shared quality of Lieutenant Fontaine and Corey made them intimidating but SO badass.

    “The Red Circle”, as a heist film, uniquely captures the idea of morality by revealing the complexity of the matter. Maybe we can begin to understand what Melville means when he suggests that “all men are guilty” by seeing that not one of us are completely good or bad but in need of being purged of the crime of our once innocent lives.

  • Kirun Haque

    This gangster film is very different from the other gangster films I’ve seen. Before watching this film, I was expecting to see more violence in this film, but I was wrong. In this film, the characters only used violence or killed people when it was needed, which I found really interesting.
    There were some scenes that took me back to Robert Bresson’s film, A Man Escaped, because it was similar. Both films did not rely on dialogue to explain what is going on to the audience. Also, I found Corey and Fountaine’s personality very similar, how they both are quiet and they almost speak when they have to speak. Also, this film reminded me of the Ocean Eleven films, it seemed like that those films were inspired by Melville’s film, The Red Circle. Because both films are about a heist and comradery. Also, I think both titles of these films tells the audience how the films end. In A Man Escaped the title literally tells us that the man escaped and in The Red Circle it tells us that Corey and Vogul dies, that the red circle symbolizes the bullets that killed them.
    My favorite thing about this film is how Melville does not use dialogue to explain what is going on or what happened in the past to audience. Melville just let the audience assume what happened in the past. For example, in the beginning of the film Corey knocks on an apartment door of man who he worked with named Rico. Rico is shown sleeping next to a naked woman and he gets up to open the door. Later in the scene, Corey asks for the money and Rico said he doesn’t have the money, then Corey threatens him with a gun. Then, Corey opened a painting that was a safe and grabbed the money and replaced it with pictures of the woman Rico was sleeping with. It was clear that Corey and that woman had some kind of a romantic relationship in the past and he lost her to Rico. If this was any other modern Hollywood film, they would have explained this scene with dialogue.
    The climatic heist scene of this film is the best scene in this film. When I watched this scene it, I was thinking of the escaped scene in the Bresson’s film, A Man Escaped. I didn’t even realize the scene was at least twenty minutes long and that it had no dialogue until the scene was over. The heist seemed realistic to me and that Corey and Vogel had every single detail planned in this heist. I liked how Melville did close up shots on the jewelry they were stealing and it showed they were stealing really expensive stuff. This scene was just as suspenseful as the scene of the escaped in the A Man Escaped film. I was on edge of my seat even though I knew they were going to get away with the heist. Also, I think there were barely any dialogue when Fountaine was trying to escape. What both scenes had in common is that I think almost all the characters in both films did show any fear of getting caught, because getting caught wasn’t an option, it was just to complete the task.
    Also, I liked how one of the inspectors kept saying that all men are guilty and they are born innocent but it doesn’t last. Which is true to some extent that we are all born innocent, but all lose our innocence when we grow older. That line reminded me of the novel, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, because the book was basically about the loss of innocence.
    I liked how the film wasn’t just about heists and it more about how honorable the men were. No one ratted each other out. All the men that were involved in the heist stuck through the whole time even though some were hesitant like Jansen. I thought Jansen was going to leave them at the jewelry store at the end of the heist, because he didn’t seem committed. However, he stuck through until they completed the task. Overall, I really enjoyed watching this film and I feel that this was a true gangster film about loyalty and honor.

  • Nick Forgione

    “Le Cercle Rouge” is a brilliant crime movie that blurs the moral compass instilled within us. The famous line from the movie, “all men are guilty” comes from the very strange police commissioner. He seems to be a sage-like character in this film that has an overshadowing theme that resonates throughout. He oversees the the entire process of the capture of our protagonists. The film is about two criminals being hunted down in one form or another and coming together to pull off a heist that would put their lives at ease. Corey, one criminal, is an intriguing character that seems to be extremely meticulous with every step he takes. Everything the man does has purpose, and he moves about so fluidly. The character is essentially the cool customer that displays physical poetry in the film. The other criminal, Vogel, is on the run from the authorities from the start of the film. He is the more brash and daring character from the get-go. He picks the lock on his hand cuffs during a police escort on a train, and he breaks through the window of the train car to escape. When running away from the police chase for miles, he stumbles upon a diner in which he jumps into the trunk of a car, which happens to be Corey’s. The ever calculating Corey notices this daring adventurer and quells the fellow criminal’s hostilities in an open field. This all happens after Corey dodges a police checkpoint on the road.

    This kind of relationship and devotion remains through the rest of the film. Corey keeps Vogel hidden away for the majority of the time to protects him from the police. We begin to really love these characters and want them to succeed in their heist. This is where I think that overarching theme of “all men are guilty” comes into play. We, the audience, are just as guilty as the criminals for cheering them on throughout the movie. We truly want them to pull of a massive robbery and live happily ever after. They seem like great guys right? After all, they are not as guilty as the head detective hunting them down. Detective Mattei uses dirty police tactics to wrangle in our protagonists. Mattei falsely arrests a teenager, who is so distressed he attempts suicide, in order to draw the loyalty of a friend of Corey and Vogel’s.

    The movie ends how it begin, in a great chase scene between our protagonists and the police on foot. This is a great way to tie in the title of the film “The Red Circle”. However, this time the police are able to shoot and kill Corey and Vogel, and it would appear that it was a job well done from the polices’ perspective. Yet, I couldn’t help but feeling sorely disappointed that Corey and Vogel were unsuccessful in their journey. “All men are guilty”, means to me this exact feeling at the end. I am guilty of being upset that the criminals did not get away with stolen goods and murder. This makes this film unique to me. It was not only a thrilling joyride throughout, but it poses a moral question to us. It is would we would spin off today as an action type thriller movie, but this film was so masterfully put together that it resonates deeper with the soul. I loved the movie because it went above and beyond the typical crime film.

  • Jamie Wright

    Le Cercle Rouge was such an amazing film original to watch. I embraced the idea of destiny from start to finish. The kinds of heist movies I have watched have barely touched upon the level of intensity and suspense of this film. I would watch heist movies like the Pink Panther, more of the comedy versions of heists. It was incredible to see the play by play scenes of how the burglary was happening second by second. I felt like after watching the famous heist scene in Le Cercle Rouge that I could attempt to repeat it but would still not be as successful. This thought proved to be how destiny has an even deeper part of this story than I thought. Even if I went through each action step by step exactly, I would not be able to pull it off like Corey and the gang. It was their destiny to successfully complete the robbery so they could come to their destined end.

    There was also quite a lot of symbolism of circles throughout this film due to its title, but I believe it’s to the saying of life going in circles as well. There was a red circle around the end of the pool stick, the circle to shoot through to turn off the sensors, and the knob to close the door to Jansen’s secret door. Lines are blurred and turned into these circles. What I mean is that even the idea of good and bad is transformed into this same circling feeling of characters going back and forth through these characterizations. Corey is, at first, a bad guy going to jail but gets out for good behavior. Then is kind to let Vogel hide in his car. Sadly then turns bad for killing two men and starting back down the road to negative behavior. Another example is the detective Mattei who is trying to capture Vogel but throughout the film, I viewed him as a villain. The roles reversed in an endless cycle just like a circle.

    Le Cercle Rouge was a film that helped the audience focus more on the scenes and characters in the movie not the lines, music, or the acting. It wanted to push for the suspension and understanding of passion. The 25-minute long heist scene without music and all done in one shot shows how Le Cercle Rouge’s director, Melville created a masterpiece that should always be followed when other directors decide to make a heist movie. He set the bar high.

  • Pouya

    After watching eight masterpiece of French cinema I eventually found my favorite film, which is “The Red Circle”. The most powerful part of this film is directing which really attracted me, Melville tells the story intelligently and he tries to involve the audience into the story. Melville doesn’t show the details of the story; he forces the audience to find the important elements without showing them. For example, when Corey is taking the money from safety box, he puts his ex-girlfriend’s photo in the safety box. The director gives us important information in less than a minute without moving the camera. In addition, the director shows to us a restricted story, which makes the audience surprise, and also the audience has limited information about the characters.

    As usual I’m going to mention the cinematography as well, which is impressive and performed well. Usually the cinematographers use low-key lighting for gangster genre, and low-key lighting is used in this film to make the atmosphere dark with shadows. The camera movements are extremely effective and technical. For example, in the beginning of the film we see an amazing helishot from the window of the train, this shot is masterly perform without any particular cinematography equipment at that time. Using normal lenses makes a realistic image of the film and also audience cannot feel the camera movements during the film, which is a good point of cinematography.

    Characters are objective, I don’t remember any POV shot or dream shots from the characters, because the director focused on three main characters and used them together, I think there is no specific main character in the film, however, the film begins with Corey and the other characters join him during the film.

  • Jim Alexander

    What amazed me about this film is the meticulous precision of it. Melville was so true to presenting a film that doesn’t miss a beat and any action. He delivers a movie where every action is explained and justified. A film where every detail depicted means something. Every move is calculated. This is a true heist movie that feels more like real life than movie. You believe these guys really existed. Corey doesn’t flinch–literally. He’s calm, cool, collected, and imposing. He’s the definition of a quiet assassin. A guy who doesn’t need to say a word, yet you still fear him. The heist scene might have been the longest and most descriptive in cinema history. Movies often leave a lot to be desired in depicting slow-moving action such as a robbery, they move ahead in time and get to the more exciting part, or escape. In Le Cercle Rouge, the real-time showcase of the break-in is tantalizing. This is what a professional robbery must be like. There is no dialogue–it’s not even necessary, the near half hour scene speaks for itself. I’m a huge fan of heist movies, films such as Ben Affleck’s The Town is a film I hold in very high regard, but I must admit when it comes to depicting heist, this one takes the cake. I applaud Melville for brining an honest ending to the movie, there is no copout. Even though he manages to present these criminals as likable characters. You can’t help but sort of root for Corey and Vogel to get away with the cash. The police detectives come off as villains of sorts. This role reversal is showcased flawlessly. Everything about this film just works, the setting, mood, and evolution of plot is seamless. This is the standard that heist movies have yet to live up to.

  • Andrea G

    As we get closer to the end of the semester I am starting to connect and contrast the films that we have been watching. In many of the films, including Le Cercle Rouge, it is difficult to distinguish between good and evil. We are always exposed to both sides and then it is hard to choose which character we should root for. Personally, this over-occurrence throughout the films does not bother me because I feel that it gives the audience the chance to think and meditate over each character. Just like a painting, many of the films we watched in class can be interpreted through different lens and I think that’s what makes them so unique.

    Just like many others in our class, I too compared this film to A Man Escaped. I mean how can we not- both films have that demonstration style of how two or three men try to escape or robe a jewelry store. However, I seemed to like Le Cercle Rouge a bit more. What I loved the most was Melville’s jazz-inflected world, populated by professional, well dressed criminals all of whom drove classic American cars. It was so visually appealing that it made me want to live in a world like that. The cafe was also a favorite setting of mine. The aesthetic inside mixed with the dancers and all of the men dressed up smoking cigars was definitely a very cool look. Melville put so much emphasis on costume and locations that many of the times I felt that the image and movements of the characters told us exactly what was going to happen rather than the dialogue. The highlight of the film is the films climactic heist sequence which is twenty minutes long with no dialogue. However, when watching you are so hypnotized to the scene and watching intensively that twenty minutes goes by faster than you know it. Melville’s beautiful camera movements, choreography, and perfect editing make for a memorable and remarkable movie sequence. I will definitely be checking out more films by Jean-Pierre Melville.

  • Andres Merlos

    This film is a masterpiece and a heist classic. I agree that Alain Delon is Melville’s Clint Eastwood as you can see Delon’s character as a smooth,cool,mysterious man. I enjoyed Melville’s motif of circles. For example before Corey fights the hitmen, he chalks his pool stick with red chalk in a circle. Then we have Corey break into the jewelry store cutting a round circle in order to open the window to enter. We also see the jewelry is round and as well we see circle’s when he has to shoot the hole in order to disarm the system. It is interesting also to see the change of events take place every time the quote of “All men are guilty” comes into play. Like the kid who was busted for marijuana or when Corey has decided to do one more job. After all in the end the anti-heroes end up being shot and at the end of the film, the detective says the quote again. This establishes that the red circle will not end and that it is a never ending cycle that every man will become guilty of something sooner or later.

  • Joseph Brunetti

    Le Cercle Rouge was an amazing movie to watch about two criminals that met in the red circle before taking on a silent heist . The Twenty-Five minute scene of the jewelry heist was the best part of the movie to watch from the suspense it fulfilled.There was no dialogue, music, or montages at all throughout that scene. As a movie about criminals and heists, I like how men was shown in the film. I liked how Melville’s treatment of the theme of male behavior is shown in Le Cercle Rouge. All the characters in the movie who have met each other in the red circle are men. There was rarely any women that was shown in this movie, only the ones dancing at Santi’s and Corey’s Ex-Girlfriend. There was only one insistent supervision of women near the end when a girl gave Corey a flower that could be taken as sympathy or any other reason. This was the only self expressive act by a women in the entire movie that Melville put in. Melville did an amazing job directing a film that was only focused on men and the American life of two criminals who met in the red circle, not by randomness but by reason.

  • Ryan Gradishar

    I feel this film illustrates what every heist movie should strive to be. From the character casting to his motif of circles to the heist scene, Melville executed this film to perfection. I felt that the dynamic between Corey, Vogel and Mattei was very interesting. By having Corey and Mattei look alike with their striking blue eyes, trench coats and fedoras showed that even though they were on opposite sides of the law, they are not too different of people outside of that. Circles also play a subtle but huge roll in this film. From the time Corey draws a red circle on his pool cue right before fighting off two hitmen, to breaking into the jewelry store by cutting a circle into a window to unlock it, circles play a huge roll in this film.

  • Renae Davison

    “All men are guilty. They’re born innocent, but it doesn’t last.” L’inspecteur general de la police states. This quote sets the tone for Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Cercle Rouge. It raises the question concerning the origin of evil and seems to contradict the notion of free will. Western Christianity says just the opposite, that is, that all people are born in a state of moral or sinful deprevity and though able to choose the good or evil life need to be made perfect by the power of another (God) in the afterlife.

    The inspector general seems to indict everyone. The movie shows that there is a code of honor which is the true morality of the evil ones, those involved in the jewelry store heist. After Corey is released from prison he pays a visit to his mob boss. The mob boss’ morality is expediency. He let Corey take the rap while he carried on business as usual which included sleeping with Corey’s girlfriend. When Corey came back and took the mob boss’ money and gun, the boss put a hit out to have Corey killed and his money returned to him. The nightclub owner Santi’s morality said to be loyal but when faced with his son going to jail or helping Inspector Mattei, he betrayed Corey for the sake of his son. He sold out one of his fellow gangsters to the law.

    The end of the movie with the three criminals all being shot after achieving their diamond heist suggests that the goals of evil are punishable by death. A portion of this morality is held by the American public, you get yours in the end. The Jesuits are accused of saying “the end justifies the means” which is reflected in Inspector Mattei setting up the fencing entrapment meeting with naive Corey, knowing full well that the three diamond robbers would likely be killed trying to escape. There is a morality held by many people that entrapment and killing are morally proper acts of the police.

    While Le Cercle Rouge draws on the era of Al Capone in it’s gangster ways, the characters are clearly driven by the various interpretations of morality underlying the entire movie.

  • Ryan Robinson

    The Red Circle is a unique film in itself, and stands out from films of the gangster genre. Melville is able to make each character extremely intelligent, which makes them dangerous in their own right. The lack of dialogue during the heist leaves the viewer in suspense and on the edge of their seat as the scene plays out due the possibility of Corey and Vigol could get caught. Another interesting aspect that Melville touches on is the “All men are guilty” line. This could possibly mean a number of different things, but what I think Melville was getting at was that as people get older, they lose their sense of innocence, and begin to struggle with their beliefs of what’s right and wrong.

  • Awais

    The Red Circle such an amazing movie we watch in class and this gangster film is very different from the other gangster films I’ve seen. because other films have crime and shooting killing etc..watching this film I was expecting to see same thing like other movies show more violence in this film but I was wrong. In this film the characters only used violence or killed people when it was needed which I found really interesting. what i really liked about this movie is this is way different then what i thought and how Melville shows his intelligently and make the audience to think about the next scene and the most interesting part for me was when the police offer was taking one of the thief on train and how brilliantine Vogel use a pin to uncuf him to escape and he broke the glass of the train to jump out and hides in Coreys car. the performing of the move was great over all and the lighting was low key at night and the camera movement were excellent the lenses were normal and wide zoom in to see everything clear. there were not lot of dialogues but it was interesting to watch because the way Melville puts it great.

    The second best part of the movie was how those guys went out to rob the jewelry store. they did extremely great job by keeping up quit and made there move wisely. the most surprising was how did they did not talk throw out the robbery and i think it was fun part when the older guy set up his gun on stand to shoot the alarm lock but he changed his mind and took out the gun to shoot and i actually thought he would miss it and they would end up getting thought. watching all these movies in the class made me realize how the director thinks and make their move and keep everything interesting for the audience.

  • Alishah Rizvi

    The Red Circle written by Jean-Pierre Melville, was one of the best, exciting French films I have ever watched yet. It was filled with excitement, and a whole lot of suspense. This film kept me interested all the way until the end. Melville’s way of keeping the audience so observed into the film was amazing. The overall story of the film was brilliant. Everything from the plot of the film to brilliant plans of the robbers along with the camera work was perfect and on point at all times.

    Although there was a lot going on in this film, the Melville never failed to keep his audience on track. Melville did an excellent job in keeping it as clear and organized as possible so the audience does not get confused. At some point in the movie, I was getting a bit confused in trying to figure out who were the other two robbers. However, this was a great way to keep our minds stimulating and getting us to think harder, which I believe is what kept many of us so interested throughout the film. A film that requires you to think a little along with implying or dropping hints is so much more interesting and fun versus just portraying and giving it all away and not giving the audience a second chance to guess at it.

    My favorite part of the film was when the three robbers come together and plan out a very smart way of robbing the bank. They were so sneaky and they knew exactly where the alarms were hidden. The way this was planned really shows all the thought and hard work that was put into producing this film. It was so brilliantly planned that the tricks and ideas of sneaking in the bank wouldn’t even cross an average person’s mind.

  • Ninos

    Movie start with a train and the camera was focusing on it so close till it start getting further and further, i felt right away that there is something serious going on in that train before i actually seen the action of Vogel being arrested. The movie made me feel that i am the actor or maybe i want to be one, Corey amazed the audience, he was so cool, calm, brave and not worried about anything. Anything was possible for him. The way Corey met Vogel totally in a circle, where it looked that trouble are about to happen.
    The way he acted when Vogel pulled a gun on him, he was so calm and his face features were so serious but not afraid at all. Corey is one of those men who will step up with a high chest and build as a strong wall will never be damaged.
    James another brave intelligent actor who was the main guy of robbing the jewelry store. The way he walked in the store and been looking around to catch the camera’s location was very sharp. I like the way cameras were focusing on his eyes direction then to the cameras closely enough to see the location were been installed. The way he build a bullet definitely told us that something related to the chemistry because we all seen that he is putting so much chemicals together to get that bullet strong and smooth at the same time to go through the key-fob.
    I am not a big fan of gangster movie at all, but i totally realized that the movies nowadays are the one i have issues with. This Film is amazing gangster movie where it won’t show a lot of killing and bleeding and disrespectful words, it totally showed us the skills and the real gangsters who will step up for anything will try to face them.

  • Asim Arshad

    The Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: “When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle.” Buddha actually never said that. Melville made it up. Circles play a big role in this movie “ Le Circle Rouge”. When Corey chalks his pool stick it draws a red circle on his stick, all the characters were connected somehow in a metaphorical circle, the cut in the window made in the washroom window to get in the jewelers was a circle. Outside the jewelers there was a wide shot of the roundabout in front of the jewelers. Another thing that was Important in this movie was the Inspectors claim that everyone is born pure, but every man is guilty. This quote was used by the inspector in the beginning and end of the movie.

    The main character Corey was on point with everything he did. he never wasted time and everything he did was for a reason. He had 2 helpers in this heist, one being a ex cop who is a drunkard and one who escaped out of a train while on the way to jail. Jansen goes inside the Jewelers to scout out the cameras and the security system before he heist. Everything done during and before the heist was carefully planned out in order to ensure the completion of the heist.

    Earlier in the movie they showed Jansen weighing little blocks of material and melting them together, pouring them into little slots. Later in the movie they revealed that Jansen was actually making a soft bullet that would form into the key hole which locks everything in the Jewelers. They used quick snap shots showing how each showcase unlock after Jansen shot the key hole with the bullet he made.

    While he cops watched the video the Sargent said he went much for talking. This made me realize that there was total silence in the classroom and in the movie for about 25 minutes during the heist. This extended silent period heightened our senses as viewers and made every little movement or sound more drastic and it held our attention with ease.
    This was one of my favorite movies viewed in class so far

  • fernando Hernandez

    After hearing about Le Cercle Rouge before and actually seeing it in class I can honestly say that It lived up to one of the most classical heist films ever. First of all the unlikely friendships that were developed in the film between Corey, Vogal and Jansen and the personalities of each character is what I think makes this movie stand out from other heist films. I liked the scene of Vogal and Corey meeting when Vogal hid in Coreys trunk and then when Vogal comes out, Corey tells Vogal that he knew he was hiding there the whole time because it was a random but creative way of a friendship being made and later on when they show the scene when Jansen is having a mental breakdown and he starts to see things but all of a sudden that all vanishes when he gets a call about the bank robbery plan, so he leaves his problems at home and transforms into a different person, sort of saying that committing crimes is what makes him sane. I would agree that the climatic bank robbery scene was very exhilarating, even though there was no dialogue for twenty minutes it sure didn’t feel like it was long because of the suspensefullness of that scene where you just sit there and wonder if they’re going to end up being caught.

  • Kitty Richardson

    Melville is such a contradiction. Narratively he concerns himself with honor, a concept often associated with the legality of a situation, only to create a story that erases the divisions between men on opposite ends of the law. He is described stylistically as a minimalist yet his characters operate within crowded sets and interact with their setting in interesting and amusing ways. In one of the first shots we see Vogel escorted onto a train. As dusk settles in, the camera pulls back through a window and then back so you can see the cabin and then even farther back til the locomotive is just a black line across the horizon. Similarly after Vogel has escaped, a search party is called and policemen divide the grass from the sky as they march into the woods. But then Corey is shown being attacked at a billiards club and the cutting is fast and sharp. It goes punch, gun, bloodied face, dropped gun, ringing shot of a bullet. Moments after, a hand reaches out from behind a wall and rips out the phone cord of an old man calling the police. Later when Vogel and Corey meet, Corey parks the car and asks whoever is hiding in his trunk to come out. A pale hand tightly gripping a gun is all we see emerge from the trunk. Large environments isolate characters in large swaths of night and close ups chop them up and keep them from fully interacting with others. Similarly silence is used to highlight and make sound seem more jarring than it usually is. The soundless screams of Jansen are almost disturbing than the sound of punches being thrown. I read Le Circle Rouge ultimately as a story about how survival can fracture and distort people relating to one another and the world around them, about an environment where the wild detachment and wandering every person faces at varying degrees can be softened by fatalism.

  • osmar

    Melville’s The Red Circle is not like other heist films that have followed in its footsteps. Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven and Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job are more action and plot oriented then The Red Circle. These films are flashy and fast paced; they are not concerned with character development just the action of the film. in contrast, The Red circle takes time to establish the characters and their backgrounds. in the beginning of Red Circle. we got small glimpses into their lives. we see that Corey is still in love with a blonde woman from his past. we are presented with Vogel’s criminal mentally as he escapes from the train that is carrying and into the forest. Finally, through vivid hallucinations we are presented with Jansen’s alcoholism. unlike Ocean’s Eleven which is all style and no substance, there is a central theme to The Red Circle. Destiny is the most prominent one. As the quote at the beginning states ” All men… come together in the red circle.” All three men, Corey, Vogel, and Jensen and the police were eventually to have their paths cross together as they did at the climatic ending of the film. As the newly freed Corey wanders the countryside he encounters the newly captured Vogel by chance as Vogel takes refuge in Corey’s car. Similar the ex-cop Jensen becomes involved with Corey and Vogel’s plan to rob the jewelry store. Eventually the policeman who on the hunt for Vogel becomes entangled in the search for the robbers of the jewelry store. Eventually all the characters eventually converge into one place and unlike most other heist films, Corey, Vogel, and Jansen were caught and/or killed. The entertainment level and flashiness of Ocean’s Eleven but it offers a more realistic plot and an amazing heist sequence.

  • Andres isasi

    The Red Circle is a fantastical crime film. I say fantastical because it is objectively a fantastic film but there is a sense of fantasy throughout the film and after reading your review, it becomes clear as to why it seems like a fantasy.

    The Red Circle seems like a fantasy because it is. Melville made up a Paris where there’s the jazz, the trench coats, the American cars. He even made up a Buddha quote to build in a sense of fate and destiny, a key theme of the film itself. At the end of the day, this doesn’t hurt the film and actually helps the film to continue to be remembered decades later.

    The heist itself is simple and yet one of the greater heists out there. I don’t really know how to explain it but I loved it.

  • Harrison Langlois

    Due today’s standards I hear the word Gangster I think drugs and violence, like a whole lot of those two things. I think Gangster from a 20th century setting I think black and white, Tommy guns, poor love struck dames that can’t help but love the main character. This film being French rather than American though completely changed what I expect from gangster films. The characters in the Movie The Red Circle probable more accurately portray what an actual “bad-guy” would be like, and what they would really be after. Bad men that just want money. L’instecteur general de la police is quoted as saying that “All men are guilty” I think those words perfectly describe the trio that make up our band of thieves. Every single character in this film had something they were guilty of, not just ex-cons, murderers, or alcoholics.

  • neil chisholm

    I am a coo-el French gang-STUER. The rain is dribbling down on my tan rain-coat… excuse me while I light up a Gittain cee-garet. COUGH COUGH… where was I– Oh yes. Smokeeng and stealeeng are my only plea-SUERS. I go to the girlEE dance club but not to gawk at the girlEES
    but to look for a fence to hock my jewELS that I rob. You see, a guard got me sprung from the Bastille, but that eez so I can rob a big jewelREE
    concern. I hold up a former gang-stuer boss and take his cash and a for-tee-five automat-eek. Then I buy a beeg Americaine car and stop for eggs and baguettes at the restaurant. Do you know another fugitive gang-steur
    climbs into my trunk! Then this gang-steur saves me from two other gang-steurs working for my old boss! We decide to commit a beeg jewel roberEE but need a marksman to shoot ze lock off ze door with bars. So who better but an alcoholEEK who can’t even read his watch he tremBELLs so much? All ze time, a cat-crazEE police inspecTUER is tryeeng to track us down. His boss is a beeg cyn-EEK who says men are born innocENT but end up guilTEE. So we go to ze buildEENG where ze
    jewELS are, and shimEE down to ze window and cut ze glass. We tie up ze guard and ze alcoholEEK is at ze top of heez game and shoots ze lock.
    Then we scoop up ze jewELs and beat eet. Now eez ze beeg problem which eez getting paid for ze jewELS. Who wants to buy them but the
    cat-crazEE inspecTUER! We run for EET, well you know ze rest!

    Speaking as a French gang-stuer, I am only happy when the sky eez dark and gloomEE and inside eet eez ze SAME. I am good for my word
    because like ze Americaine singer Bob Dylan, “To live outside the law you
    must be honest.” Also ze Rolling Stones sang, “As all the cops are criminals and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails call me Lucifer, for
    I’m in need of some restraint.” With my good looks I could have been a
    star of the moVEES, but a life a crime seemed more excitEENG. Thanks to Jean-Pierre Melville, my storEE will last forevEUR.

  • Alvin Varghese

    Modern day heist films don’t show charismatic effort like The Red Circle. As a film about a mischevious crew of thieves gather together to pull off the “big heist”, they face adversity. Yes, this is a common theme in most heist movies, but this film brought more intensity as well as being realistic. The thing that fascinated me about The Red Circle was a classic style that you mentioned, “Jazz influenced” or “Nocturnal world”. All qualities Melville made apparent through almost every scene. A modern day reference to this film would have to be the Fast and Furious franchise, now becoming a movie series focused on the heist. Still, does not compare to the direction of Melville’s. The heist itself was realistic but yet “classy” in a way. Most Fast and Furious films include reckless behavior to which it caters towards a younger audience. To really appreciate this film, you must appreciate classic cinema. Overall this film had me in awe with the way it concluded. The three thieves Corey, Vogel, and Jansen dying at the hands of the Mattei. Then again it shows you the savviness of Mattei and how everything will crumble eventually.

  • Oleksandr Kryshchuk

    I liked this film. Especially the All men are Guilty Theme because its true. The movie had me guessing the whole time but everything happens just perfect in order for this film to be good. For example, when Vogel got into the trunk of Corys car and not anyone elses. Then at the second checkpoint when his trunk is being checked by the police, at that point I thought he will be going back to jail. Luckily he gets away without opening the trunk because the key isn’t right. I found it interesting how the story unveils. Also for a gangster film, I thought there would be much more crime involved and a lot more killings, but none of the actors just murder people for fun. Ex: When they tied the security officer and placed him on the bed during the robbery. Overall it was a great film and slow pace doesn’t bother me at all.

  • Alexander Towers

    Your comparison of Jean-Pierre Melville to Sergio Leone is very fitting because while both filmmakers were from France and Italy respectively, their passion for American cinema is in every frame of their movies. Additionally, Melville’s mindset of how classic cinema should function puts this comparison in an interesting perspective. Melville’s view of classic cinema was that it focus primarily on heroes. I also found your opinion of The Red Circle’s purpose to explore the nature of evil to be worth some thought as Melville did not paint a clear-cut divide between good and evil, but does exhibit the varying levels of guilt.
    Melville’s view of the nature of a hero acting the “proper” way (loyalty, honor, chivalry) is fascinating, as is his personal interpretation of the City of Lights. Melville’s Paris is filled with timeless jazz music and has a tint of nostalgia. It does not have New Wave filmmakers, rock music, and social discomfort. This implies that Melville had a yearning for the glory days, even if they stopped a long time ago.

  • Romeo Abregana

    “And so the gods fought evil incarnate without a sense of mercy but before the final attack was struck, evil incarnate found itself into the humans who must also fight evil without mercy.”
    -Nordic Mythology

    You mentioned that Melville’s film glorifies the atrocities that these criminals have committed since these acts “ has to do with old fashioned values such as honor, loyalty to one’s friends and chivalry”. I agree to some extent that Melville does appreciate the American criminal/gangster aesthetic which is exemplified in the rich, vibrant and expansive Mise-En-Scene that Melville uses when showing off Sarti’s night club. Furthermore, Melville reflects masculine values such as aggression, violence and a sense of independence in The Red Circle which plenty of viewers would agree with and support.
    However, it is to my understanding that Melville recognizes the futility, and despair associated with this tragic life style despite the “cool” looking exterior. One way this is exemplified when Corey shoots Rico’s men who were after them and ditches the literal blood money. Melville uses very vibrant rich colors of red, a symbol of oppression and violence, and plenty of it to coat the money prop. Corey ditching the blood money behind if symbolic of the death, uselessness and tragedy associated with his criminal lifestyle.
    Another example of how Melville’s film is actually a warning about how the criminal lifestyle will result in nothing but destruction would be the use of his characters. One way that Melville does this is by making all the criminal characters extremely talented which is exemplified in the film’s 25 minute robbing scene. Melville only understands it is human nature to support visually engaging talent. Melville shows heavy influence from Bresson when Melville removes standard framed theatre acting components, such as the use of genuine facial expressions and emotionally-driven dialogue, to make the climactic scene a spiritual experience for the audience.
    Another way that Melville encourages the audience to support and hope for the best for the characters only to have it all taken away because Melville actually discourages the criminal lifestyle would be the use of very developed background stories for the criminal characters. For example, once again, Melville pays Homage to Bresson’s use of the close-up of the hand in action during Vogel’s introductory shots to demonstrate that Vogel is an incredibly crafty person who can even escape from one of the “best hunters” in the police department. Corey is also a character that Melville makes the audience root for with the effective use of a flashback with Bresson style acting, neutral facial emotions that ironically invoke a lot of emotion in the audience, that makes Corey a man of redemption. Jensen’s trauma is exemplified by Melville’s use of surrealism in the frame that introduces Jensen, his home, as well as the traumatic dream he has making Jensen appear as a victim of circumstances. All these characters have very rich background stories which make it a lot easier for the audience to sympathize with them making the conclusion of the film, their tragic and inevitable death, that much more impactful.

  • Jack Wechsler

    When I was watching this heist film, I couldn’t help but compare it to all the other heist films I’ve watched today, it seems to be very similar in plot to The Italian Job. Much like the Italian Job, the director manages to make us feel anxious as we watch the heist taking place. We watch the sharp shooting cop aim his gun on a tripod at the key hole to disable the alarm through his scope. We watch it slowly line up perfectly. Then we see him allow someone else to check it, then he quickly picked up the gun off the tripod and immediately pull the trigger to perfectly shoot his bullet into that hole. Right in that moment, I could feel my heart skip a beat waiting for the alarm to sound. This dialogue-less scene just made my anxiety spike just waiting for a small thing to go wrong. The cutting and the way he showed them moving throughout the store made them seem light on their feet, agile, and smooth. I agree that they definitely had that cool factor, but I don’t think it quite compares to the cool factor of dropping a safe full of gold through 3 stories of a building down into a boat garage in The Italian Job.

  • tylereconblog

    Although at some points in this movie the pace seems to slow down quite a bit, I still found the overall movie a pleasant and exciting experience. Even though it was a very exciting heist scene, it is not the best heist scene I’ve seen in movies. For example, I enjoy the heist scene from “Heat” and “The Italian Job” better than “The Red Circle”. I noticed most, if not all heist movies have moments with such pure concentration that it almost seems like time slows down before your eyes. I noticed this as well in this movie, and it may have actually seemed longer than others comparatively because there is no talking at all for about those 20 minutes when they are executing the heist. It also had a feel of class or rank in the process, while still remaining minimalistic. Your comparison between Jean-Pierre Melville to Sergio Leone was something I didn’t think of myself, but I agree with, especially when comparing their desire and love for American cinema.

  • Joy

    Cool and Masculine are the two words that come to mind when i think of this movie. The attire that the men wore, their impeccable appearance,the somewhat stylized actions and movements, the controlled use of Jazz music playing in the background, opulent interiors both traditional and contemporary all added to the cool factor.
    This is a very masculine movie like most gangster movies. Female presence was very minimal, in fact i thought it was merely ornamental. Even the sounds you hear of nature and surroundings for example, sound of rain and tempest, sounds of car doors closing, footsteps etc had a masculine quality.
    In some ways this is also a movie of good team work, both parties trying to achieve their goal trough mutual reliance within their teams. I see how friendship, loyalty and chivalry, characteristics so dear to Melville, are present in all the main characters in this film. Not only the robbers and the drunk police but also, the detective and the police chief(although he is highly suspicious, he is loyal to the police force) can be defined this way. They just are on the opposite teams dueling each other. Equally brave chivalrous men fighting each other. Other than this, this is not a tale of very complex characters. May be it is because of this i think of this movie as a Western movie in more recent times. If in the western they had horses, boots and bandannas, in this movie, they had fast cars, trench coats, black suits and fedoras. The Salon is replaced by the urban club. Harsh desert landscape replaced by the harsh winter landscape.

    The silent 25 minute shot taught me the importance of silence in creating suspense. I noticed even the slow gliding movement of the camera in some shots devoid of sound had a very hush quality. Forces the audience to be a silent observer. In one particular scene i liked how sound was used to denote the location of the characters. The clock ticking in the guard’s room is the example. When you hear the clock’s sound in the scene with the robbers you know that they are near the guard’s room. The background music was sparingly used, intentionally. The three types of background music were used specifically, Jazz was associated with the Robbers, marching band sound with the police and piano for emotional bonding between robbers. Therefore the use of music was minimalist in nature.
    I am glad Melville chose to shoot this movie during winter. The winter lighting and ambiance added to the Noir quality of the film.
    Overall the sights and sounds of this movie makes one realizes the director highly controlled the Mis-en-scene of the film, making this an Auteur centered film.

  • Jihyun Hwang

    After watching The Red Circle, I couldn’t help but wonder about what kind of person Melville was. You pointed out that he made his characters act the way he would have, but could a person really be as cool as Corey? With this in mind, I came to realize that Melville was simply building his own ideal world through movies. Knowing that, the movie full of coincidences started to make sense. I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to say there is no way two master-criminals would meet the way Corey and Vogel met. Nonetheless, by making up a fake quote, Melville justified the impossible meeting, and also managed to emphasize his main theme of the film, fate.
    Overall, the film was very interesting to watch. It contained everything a true heist movie would have: master-criminals planning an epic robbery and a cop who’s willing to do anything to catch them. I personally think the ending was brilliant. All three criminals faced their death and Mattei seemed to accept the idea of all men being guilty, the idea which he once had trouble agreeing with. At the end of the day, I guess Melville was trying to tell us that although criminals can be loyal to each other, they are still criminals who are fated to pay the price of their wrong doings.

  • Amanda Orman

    What I liked most about The Red Circle was the fact that Melville had an outdated, but realistic way of approaching the world. This was not one of those heist movies where the main character spends days planning the execution of the heist, only to be successful and drive away into the sunset insanely rich. Instead, Melville recognizes that in this world, we are destined to meet our match and face the consequences of our actions. He also recognizes the reality that after following through with a major crime like that, it is no smooth sailing after the fact and requires almost more planning for what will happen after the money/gold/jewels are stolen. People, especially law enforcers, don’t just look away after something like that. They don’t throw their hands up in the air and say “Well, they did it! Good for them.” Instead, many investigators truly do become obsessed with finding the master criminal that no one else can, and like the inspector in this film, will go to whatever means necessary to catch him/her because that is their destiny. Although this was not my favorite heist movie that i have ever seen, I have to give Melville a lot of credit for creating a film that shows true balance between right and wrong, allowing good to beat evil even though its not what they audience wanted. At the end of the day, even the best criminals have to face the consequences of their actions.

  • Alejandro Nunez

    “Men are born innocent but, without exception, become guilty during the course of their lives”. This quote plays an important role of tying in the theme of the film.The theme that everyone makes mistakes, some mistakes being larger than others but in the end contribute to something greater. The part of the film where this quote is said by the supervisor begins to make you wonder where the film is going. After the heist I kept thinking that Corey was going to get greedy and take the diamonds for himself. Yet at the end of the film it all comes together and you see why each of the men are guilty of their dire consequences each in their own way. Another quote from the film that I found interesting was from the supervisor character again where he states “Crime lurks within us. We have to flush it out”. The characters can definitely identify with this quote but also the audience. It ties into the theme of the film which you spoke about above, which is what is the “right”. Which made me even ponder on what I do right or wrong in my day to day situations and how it impacts the people around me.
    The Hollywood aspect of the film was definitely obvious throughout the entire film, it seemed as if every scene involved a cigarette in some way shape or form. But also the look of the characters reminded me of the italian gangster i’ve seen before in other mobster movies of the 80’s and 90’s, who also live by a code loyalty and respect.
    My personal favorite part of the film is the heist scene. The silence of it reminded me of “A Man Escaped” because of the swift sneaky movements made by the characters when the stakes are high. The way the scene was shot with the alternating camera angles on each character as they play their part in the heist, and also the smooth delicateness of the movements during the crime scene is what makes this scene so interesting without any dialogue. Also I feel the lake of dialogue emphasized how risky the whole situation was and that if there was any dialogue you would have been scared for the characters to break their cover and get caught in the act.

  • Sam Lasko

    The Red Circle features two main themes, corruption and fate. Throughout the movie we hear the phrase “All men are guilty”. Showing us this, we find ourselves watching a team of 3 men heist 20 million Francs worth of jewelry. The team includes a man recently released from prison, a man who has escaped custody, and a corrupt ex-cop. The man who broke out of custody is being chased down by a detective, and this detective just happens to catch up with this new crime team in the end and ends up killing them.

    Originally, I had thought the opening quote about men destined to meet, was about the crime team. As the movie progresses though, it seems clear that it is the detective and the team who are destined to meet in the end. “All men are guilty” bestows the theme of corruption onto this film in ways that aren’t readily apparent in some points. Its obvious the criminals are guilty of theft and murder, but as the detective finds himself going against the common morality of his society, one finds that even he is becoming guilty of betraying his code of ethics. When, in the end, the detective kills the three criminals, we can see the political aspects of the film come forward. By showing us that even those who are here to uphold the law are corrupted, Melville comments on the real world in the same way. The nature of evil in this film grows within everyone. The detective blackmails a bar owner. The man who just got out of prison becomes incredibly greedy. The man who escaped kills 2 men. The ex-cop betrayed his oath.

    The camerawork and lighting had quite a few elements of film noir, but the real masterpiece is the exceptionally choreographed heist. Cutting through windows, tying up a guard, dodging lasers, and even shooting a soft bullet into a lock, all come together in a long and nearly silent scene. With natural colors and great costumes, we are transported into a “cops and robbers” world where normal citizens don’t exist.

  • Nikkole Gomez

    First off I would like to say I enjoyed the film very much. The scene where the three men break to into the jewelry store seemed way to easy, but of course there was a type of art form that went along. As we watch the scene it was complete since and their only communication was from their eyes and hand gestures. They all played with their strengths which made this scene amazing to watch and hard to look away. I do agree it was very hypnotizing and that each character has a certain grace to them in the scene. It reminded me of the silent movie we saw “Passion of Joan of Arc” where no dialogue was spoken. It was not about what they did, but how they did it. Furthermore, my favorite character would have to be Jensen in which we first seem him in his own dream along with his work nightmares. We see a crooked cop going through hell as we see him half way through the film to the end of the film. I think he brought a lot to the table figuring out all the cameras and alarms in the building. Also what struck me was the fact that he was doing it to not for the money, but to just help them. I feel as though he did it to help a friend and make him realize who he was and to accept it instead of hiding it. I looked at this Heist as more of an art form and how well the managed it and how well though out it was to see so much grace and strategy. I enjoyed the film however, I did wish the ending could have had a better closure to it, but overall great film.

  • Kamil Sroka

    The Red Circle written by Jean Pierre Melville, was one of the best movie, created by the French films that we have watched so far in global cinema. The film was extremely similar the films, movies made today in America. The way the film was made by Melville kept me interested and in my seat watching all the way to the very end. The way that Melville filmed the scene when they were performing the brilliant robbery was just perfect along with the camera work which made it on point.
    Melville did a very nice job by keeping his audience on track and in their seats the whole film, he kept it as clear and organized, so that the audience does not get confused. One of the scenes that had me thinking was at the end of the film when the two robbers show up at the big home to sell the jewelry, and then when he walks into the house and we see the buyer, I couldn’t figure it out that it was the police detective Mattei (Bourvil) in the beginning, but while the film was playing I started to realize it and then at the end it was clear when Vogel came through the door and told Corey to run, that is one way how Melville made sure his audience was in the clear and not confused on what was going to happen. There are points/scenes in the film where you see the loyalty that the three robbers develop over the time period that they spend together during the film. One way you can see it is by the way Corey keeps Vogel hidden for the majority of the film to protect him from the police and at the end when Vogel wants to go to the sale but Corey tells him not to be stupid.

  • Jack Hattendorf

    My favorite films to watch are about gangsters and heists. Getting to watch and learning about The Red Circle in class was a lot of fun. This film has a little of both so it for sure peaked my interest right from the begging. not only did I really enjoy what it was about but I really liked how Melville decided he was going to shoot the film and his choice to use a lot of visually stimulating scenes. A couple of which include the escaped prisoner running away from the police on foot or in the car trunk and when they are actually doing the heist.
    I thought it was really cool how Melville filmed the scene of the prisoner escaping because it all happened so fast and seemed nicely planned out. When he jumped in the mans trunk and they were driving around and going threw police roadblocks built up a lot of anxiety in me. Melville doesn’t tell you right off that bat that the man who owns the car knows the prisoner was in the trunk and when he gets stopped and knows he’s got to think of something to protect the guy in the trunk and not open it to show the police whats inside was a genius way to show that he saw him get into it.
    I also really liked how the whole time the heist was going on not a word was spoken and it was quiet and we were just able to watch it all happen. This makes me feel like the audience was actually apart of part of it and we all had to be just as quite so that the men would be able to pull off the heist.
    This film is truly a master piece of its time and by todays standards. The Red Circle really paved the way for heist and gangster movies in years to come especially with its ending showing that criminals never fully win and will get whats coming to them whether it be death or imprisonment.

  • John Youkhana

    The Red Circle by Melville was one of my favorite films that we’ve watched in our Global Cinema class so far. You can definitely see the American heist film style of the film that influenced Melville to make this. What I really liked about the film is it’s realistic take on the heist genre. The main characters end up getting killed in the end rather than driving off successful with the spoils of the heist. I also liked some of the Hollywood aspects of the film too, like how all the characters were super charismatic and were always smoking a cigarette. The mise-en-scene reminded me a lot of Italian gangster/mobster films. The camerawork in the film was amazing to me too. One of my favorite shots in the film was the shot with Corey staring from the other end of the peephole of the door. I think one American heist film that seemed heavily inspired by The Red Circle was Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino. They were both botched heist with I’d say pretty similar characters.

  • Oscar Del Rio

    American gangster movies is probably my favorite genre as far as old school type movies go, american gangster, the godfather, scarface… all fall into that category. But, seeing an american gangster type of movie like the red circle directed and done as a french movie by Melville when gangster movies weren’t even a thing yet in france, is absolutely awesome especially considering the fact that they nailed it! First the main character corey, is portrayed perfectly, laid back criminal that doesn’t seem to be faced by anything and that is intelligent at what he does best, crime. He seemed as if he wouldve gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for that plot twist in which the jewels he was supposedly going to sell to ended up being the undercover cop he’s never met before. The only part that through me off was literally the ending when both vogal and corey get caught and shot by the cops, it throws me off because in the way that they fall all ‘falsely’ about it and seem to squirm too much before laying flat down as they die. On the contrary though, the actually heist where there is absolutely no words being spoken for about 25 straight minutes, is an absolute masterpiece. I mean really, the whole scene keeps you engaged and you just keep wondering if at any moment something is going to go wrong and they are going to get caught, but they don’t. Also, the technique in which they secure the heist and get rid of the security traps is genius in Jansen’s part, I mean shooting a bullet down an impossible narrow hole across a room that shuts down all the security sensors in a precise way that he explains has to be done just right as far as bullet size and shot angle goes…wow it just makes you wonder if with enough knowledge, one himself can do that. All in all I would give this movie a 9.9/10 and would recommend it to anybody that’s into gangster movies.

  • Ashu Punjabi

    The Red Circle by Melville is probably my second favorite film that we have seen in my Global Cinema class. The reason I said that is because I’ve always loved seeing films revolving around heists and how a heist is setup kinda like Fast Five and the GTA V video game story mode. Melville’s alter ego in this film is a guy that I would like to hang out as friends but not the kind of guy I would want to be robbing banks, not that I would ever rob banks in my life. I don’t know, I just didn’t like this film as much as everyone else did because although it was good, it wasn’t the type of heist film that I thought it would be. Maybe because I have been stuck to the American version of heist films that I lost sight of what this film is trying to show me. Nevertheless, this was a great American heist film the way I love, with a few minor nit picky things that I would have like to see more in this film, but still it is a great film.

  • Jacob Allen Jones

    I love Coery’s character as he potrays himself as the definition of cool. Vogel in his own right is cunning and and honorable. Mattei is highly skilled but encumbered by hallucinations. The heist was well planned and executed with acute precision at a professional level. Just watching the film made me feel cool.

  • Stefan Jankovic

    There aren’t many films that can hold someone’s attention for over two hours. It’s quite a challenge on the director’s part to keep the audience engaged throughout the entire film, but Jean-Pierre Melville did just that. He did a phenomenal job holding suspense and keeping the audience engaged throughout the screening of “Le Cercle Rouge.” Normally you would assume that the audience would lose their attention if there is no dialogue throughout an entire scene, but that is not the case here. The most climatic scene in the film has zero dialogue, but yet kept me engaged from The beginning to the very end. I feel like if the scene had any dialogue it would be completely different from what it is right now. It is super realistic how the scene was played out. And any other film, the characters would be talking and jeopardizing their secrecy. However, there was no dialogue which is what we normally have been in a robbery of that nature. Overall, there is a strong sense of realism throughout the film which kept me engaged all two hours and 30 minutes.

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