La Cercle Rouge (1970)

At some point, when you take yourself to your sixth ’60s/’70s era French film with Alain Delon, you have only yourself to blame. Fortunately this was only our second such film, having skipped Indian Summer, Le Samourai and some others that our local indie chain insists on showing for some reason, and this one was a heist film. It recalls Rififi, though France was certainly not spared the countercultural revolution, and this film is nowhere near as fun as that one.

Although there were only two of us.

Our approximate expressions on the way to the theater.

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way: There are no female characters to speak of in this film, which means the saving grace of La Piscine (copious female pulchritude) is limited to a very gratuitous bit with Anna Douking, who is Alain Delon’s ex-squeeze and now with the guy who left him holding the bag, and who listens from that guy’s bedroom as the two talk. Completely naked, of course. Apart from that, you get showgirls in shockingly modest uniforms.

By the way, I may be mixing up Alain Delon and Yves Montand, so.

Anyway, a guy gets out of jail after serving his time and goes to shake down his old partner, who is a mob boss now (or something). Meanwhile another guy is being taken to jail and stages a daring break, fleeing from his train into the woods and finds himself in the trunk of guy #1. The two bond through a some evading the police and murder, and end up (in spite of even their limited decision making skills) planning a mega-jewel-heist. Their compere on this adventure is an alcoholic sniper, and much like Rififi (IIRC), the heist goes just fine. It’s the subsequent aspects of the crime that go wrong.

Not exactly "tight".

This is Anna Douking’s entire role: She stands behind this door for five minutes, naked. Never comes back. Never factors into anything.

Apparently this is a great movie. They tell me this is a great movie. I don’t know why they tell me this. A lot of times, when they tell me things like this, I can see what they mean even if I don’t agree. This is one where I don’t get it at all, really. It’s quite slow, which is not an issue per se (cf. Stalker). The characters are okay, I guess. It seems like a fairly conventional, somewhat grim story.

The cinematography’s okay but nothing to write home about. Nothing special about the blocking or set design (though the alcoholic’s house is kind of cool in an awful sort of way). The use of music is kind of interesting—there isn’t any at first, probably for about 15 minutes. Then there’s some ambient music. Then there’s some regular orchestral stuff. That stuff works.

I guess it all works, eventually. And I will say that I had trouble telling people apart, particularly—and this is key—the mob boss and a saloon owner being coerced by the police. In the end, the characters meet their fate by believing a clearly untrustworthy person implicitly. I thought that was kinda dumb. Sorta like, “Well, the movie has to end, so let’s do this.”

The Boy liked it somewhat more than I did, though he had similar issues. For a 1970 French film, it was acceptable.

These guys gonna die.

I would watch it again at gunpoint, anyway.

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