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Le Cercle Rouge (The Red Circle) - Criterion Collection
Le Cercle Rouge - Criterion Collection
The Red Circle
Actors: Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volonté, Yves Montand, Paul Crauchet
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Genres: Indie & Art House
NR     2003     2hr 20min

Master thief Corey (Alain Delon) is fresh out of prison. But instead of toeing the line of law-abiding freedom, he finds his steps leading back to the shadowy world of crime, crossing paths with a notorious escapee (Gian M...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Alain Delon, Bourvil, Gian Maria Volonté, Yves Montand, Paul Crauchet
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Creators: Henri Decaë, Jean-Pierre Melville, Marie-Sophie Dubus, Jacques Dorfmann, Robert Dorfmann
Genres: Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/28/2003
Original Release Date: 12/01/1990
Theatrical Release Date: 12/01/1990
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 2hr 20min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 21
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Melville is the king of cool
Eugene Wei | Santa Monica, CA USA | 06/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Every review of Le Cercle Rouge uses the word cool because Melville's movies epitomize cool. This is a world of policeman and thieves, all dressed to the nines, all possessing three facial expressions: cool, resolute, and...make that two expressions. The way they light cigarettes has undoubtedly caused lung cancer in thousands of schoolboys aspiring to cool. Melville's movies play like Hemingway's prose reads.The version I saw is a newly restored, uncut version of Le Cercle Rouge from Rialto Pictures, sponsored by Melville fan John Woo, and it's touring select cities in the United States in 2003. It is far superior to the edited, dubbed version which has been the only version available in the States until now. Let's hope this uncut version makes it to DVD soon to reach a wider audience.A criminal named Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte before his spaghetti western heyday) is being escorted by a policeman named Mattei(Andre Bouvril). Vogel escapes during a train ride. Meanwhile, a thief named Corey (French movie idol Alain Delon, as impeccably groomed as ever) who spent five years in prison and never ratted on his boss is finally released. A corrupt cop fills him in on a potential heist. Corey wishes to resist, but cannot. He cannot change his nature, or his code. Vogel and Corey cross paths, as foretold by the made-up Buddhist quote that opens the movie which says that certain men are destined to meet in the red circle. They team up for the heist while the policeman stalks them. Many words are used to describe Melville movies, and all are accurate to some degree. Film noir: no doubt Le Cercle Rouge has the tragic inevitability and stern view of human nature characteristic of film noir. Existentialist: Melville's heroes make their own choices and accept responsibility for their natures. The definitions of cool and existentialist have blurred in our society. Spare, austere: the soundtrack is minimal to non-existent. Economical--Melville's movies contain the most efficient gestures and dialogue in any movie not a silent film. Most of the acting is understated, the communication nonverbal. "All men are evil," says a government official to Mattei at one point. Later, when events have born out his opinion, he reiterates to Mattei, simply, "All men." He doesn't finish his sentence. He doesn't need to. The cast "underacts" perfectly to match Melville's style.To watch Le Cercle Rouge is to journey to the center of a long line of cinematic geneology. Melville loved American film noir and gangster pics and wanted to direct Rififi. Le Cercle Rouge features trenchcoated descendants of Humphrey Bogart and a long, near-silent heist which is itself a parent of countless movie heists since. Alain Delon's characters in Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge are the predecessors to so many movie heroes: De Niro's character from Heat, Chow Yun Fat in The Killer, Takeshi Kitano in Fireworks, Bruce Willis from Pulp Fiction, Forest Whitaker in Ghost Dog, even Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. Melville is a director's director.One day, you and Le Cercle Rouge will inevitably be drawn together in a theater with red chairs. All men."
Stylish, Jazzy, and Austere: Melville's Last Classic.
barocco44 | Fresh Meadows, NY United States | 12/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The premise is simple: a man named Corey (Alain Delon) is released from prison but is unable to avoid his randez-vous with destiny. True, this had been tried before Melville made The Red Circle. However, great photography should grab you within minutes: cool, dissolved hues framed by a skilled illusionist. The scene in the muddy field registers as one of the best of noir cinema: Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte), an upredictable and fearless fugitive meets the stark, taciturn Corey. Only indispensable dialogue here, a gesture with a toss of pack of cigarettes and the sublime theme composed by Eric De Marsan - the circle is now half-drawn and this movie genre has never since been the same. We never quite see a fork in the road for any of these guys: Corey, Vogel or Jansen, a cop-turned-gangster played by Yves Montand. All three, in spite of their efficiency, move closer and closer to an inevitably tragic end. Thus sets a feeling of temporariness. Whether it's a few thousand franks, a life of a goon in pursuit, or a near-encounter with a lost beautiful woman - it is an imprint as lasting as a puff of smoke from a Galoise. Andre Bourvil created a most convincing portrait of a veteran policeman, whose final coming to the table is as assured as that of Bergmanesque Grim Reaper. Watch the game unfold, while also enjoing the incredible piano arpeggios, brass sections, and a bunch of fantastic supporting-role actors."
Apotheosis of the great French existential crime pictures
Nicholas Edwards | Belchertown, MA United States | 11/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Jean-Pierre Melville, in many ways, shares some of the brooding
and fatalistic tendencies of his colleagues Marcel Carne (Jour Se
Leve, 1939) and Henri-Georges Clouzot (Quai des Orfevres, 1947).
Yet Melville's ethos is one which, unlike theirs, often delineates character almost entirely through action and gesture.
This makes for compelling viewing, particularly in the case of Melville's late, exquisitely crafted thrillers "Le Samourai" (1967), "Un Flic" (1971), and of course "Le Cercle Rouge" (1970).
A picture of this quality deserves the success it had in limited theatrical runs during the Stateside reissue this past Spring;
Criterion has done a marvellous job with it. I can only encourage anyone with a taste for the sheer visceral pull of
a great film to spend two evenings with the disc: one with
the picture itself, and another to view the special features
on the second disc, many of which are documentary materials that
give a wonderful glimpse of the modest, self-effacing director's
M.O. Another winner from Criterion, which I would give ten stars if I could. Let's hope for "Le Samourai" next!"
Marvelous Concoction of Philosophy, Suspense & Fate...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 12/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The director Jean-Pierre Melville, who passed away in 1973, has influenced several directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino, and John Woo, and his films have influenced several new films. The recent Ocean's Twelve and its predecessor appears to have been influenced by the characters in Melville's Bob le Flambeur (1955) while Good Thief (2002) is more or less a remake with Neil Jordan's own adaptation. In addition, John Woo is currently planning to shoot a remake on Le Cercle Rouge with the title Red Circle with intended release date set sometime in 2006. However, Melville's stories are nothing like the fast-paced action films by Woo, or quick-witted cinematic exploitations by Tarantino. Melville's stories focus on what is within the frame of each scene, as focus in brought on the characters and the actions of the characters. This way Melville conveys more than just the mere words of the characters, which leaves much for the audience to contemplate upon while a succession of frames leads the audience to a new and unexplored terrain of cinema.

In Melville's Le Cercle Rouge, he initiates the film with a made up Buddhist saying stating that all men who are destined to meet will meet, which also refers to the films title. The `Buddhist saying' plants a seed in the audience's mind, which will have great consequence for the film's characters as they cannot escape their destiny. The saying also brings a philosophical debate in regards to existentialism through a band of criminals and a police force. Two of the characters whose future seems to be linked are Corey (Alain Delon) and Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté), both criminals. Corey is freshly released after having had served time in prison and he does not waste time as he gets back into his previous ruts as he robs an old associate and buys a car. The other character, Vogel, is transported handcuffed as he is approaching the prison where about to serve time, but he succeeds in escaping and manages to avoid the police by hiding in the trunk of Corey's car. Thus, the two men's fates to meet is sealed.

Corey drives out into a secluded area of the woods where he asks Vogel to exit the trunk as he steps back from the car. Corey is also aware of a gun that was hidden in the trunk, which might have been recovered by his passenger. When Vogel steps out there is a moment of silence as the two men study each other's appearances and actions, as a distrusting pet would smell a stranger. This moment portrays the distrustful code in which criminals coexist and the meaning in which they find a purpose in life. In essence, the moment represents the red circle that has been connected as these two men were meant to meet. This leads both men to Paris where they begin to plan a jewel heist, which requires further help from a team of professionals in the field.

The police are in full force searching for the escaped Vogel that eluded Police Captain Mattei (Bourvil). A rather upset Mattei is determined to recover Vogel as he has a strong sense of purpose in life, which is now spiced up since Vogel escaped. Fatigued Mattei returns to his small apartment where he feeds his cats and tries recover physically and emotionally as he recognizes the severity of having lost Vogel under his watch. The return to the apartment displays Mattei's purpose as it illustrates Mattei's personality through his actions and the mise-en-scene, which brilliantly depicts his values.

Melville diffuses the drawn line between the criminal element and the law enforcement as he depicts a symbiotic like atmosphere between the two. In addition, the point that there is an overlapping between the two worlds comes across even more strongly through a dialogue between the Police Chief and Mattei. In the conversation, the Police Chief says, "And don't forget: All guilty." Mattei asks, "Even policemen?" The police chief responds, "All men, Mr. Mattei." This cynical perspective of mankind brings a humane side to people, as all people will make mistakes throughout life as Mattei did when he lost Vogel.

Le Cercle Rouge is a string of awesome scenes that is tied together into a brilliant cinematic experience. The star-studded (Alain Delon, Gian Maria Volonté, and Yves Montand) cast does not become the wheel for the story's success, but the cinematic narration under Melville's direction does. The direction exhibits meticulous orientation of details as the actions of the characters, the script, the mise-en-scene, the camerawork, and the sound comes together into marvelous concoction of philosophical insights, suspense, and fate."