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Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection (2005) - 4K Blu-ray Review

Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection

"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."

"one of Melville’s best works, and thanks to the Criterion Collection, spine number 218 has now received a wonderful new 4K upgrade"


Jean-Pierre Melville was famously a fan of American cinema – the Westerns and the police thrillers, more specifically. So naturally, in his own films, like Le Cercle Rouge, the director is not shy about displaying the beloved influences. But while those influences are no doubt there, all of his films, including this one, have a distinct “Melvillian” style. While Melville would label Le cercle rouge to be one of his police thrillers (and where he finally was able to make a heist film), this film goes beyond the standard norms of a police thriller/heist film. Starring the prince of French cinema, Alain Delon, Yves Montand, André Bourvil, and Gian Maria Volonté, Le cercle rouge brings together an unlikely team of antiheroes to pull of the heist of their lives with the law on their tail almost every step of the way.

In most heist films, the point of the film is well…the heist. The audience spends the whole movie buying in on the air-tight plan which leads to the big event, where something inevitably goes wrong, but despite the impossibility of it all, we see the likeable characters with misguided moral compasses pull it off and get away with it. Le cercle rouge is nothing like it.Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection

The heist is the driving factor of the film no doubt, and when we get to that section of the film, it is like watching a dance. Each member of the trio made up of Delon, Volonté, and Montand, execute their steps to perfection. Not a word of dialogue is spoken during the entire operation, nor does there need to be. By that time, the three have an understanding – a unique bond. This understanding and bond is the essential element of the film and what sets it apart from other flashy, sarcasm-filled, and grand heist films. In true Melvillian fashion, Le cercle rouge thrives in its understatement. 

In the muted colors and the cool atmosphere, this film is all about what it not said. Corey (Delon) notices when Vogel (Volontè) sneaks into the back of his trunk but doesn’t say anything until the coast is clear. Nor does Corey attempt to turn him in. Rather, inviting Vogel into the heist plot, they start to form their bond. Subsequently, when Corey gets held at gunpoint soon after, he simply knows Vogel will know how to act to save him. Then, after the heist, when the ex-cop-turned-alcoholic, Jansen (Montand) denies his share of the anticipated money, Corey, as well as the audience knows why. 

Le cercle rouge is cool and subtle. The action is few, but when it happens, it is just the right amount of explosive that perfectly fits. Like Melville’s infamous Le Samourai, this film has a great quiet intensity and anticipation. It is one of Melville’s best works, and thanks to the Criterion Collection, spine number 218 has now received a wonderful new 4K upgrade!

5/5 stars

 

Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection

4k details divider

4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Edition

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- March 15, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English
Audio:
French: LPCM Mono
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K region-free; blu-ray locked to Region A

Alain Delon plays a master thief, fresh out of prison, who crosses paths with a notorious escapee (Gian Maria Volontè) and an alcoholic ex-cop (Yves Montand). The unlikely trio plot a heist, against impossible odds, until a relentless inspector and their own pasts seal their fates. With its honorable antiheroes, coolly atmospheric cinematography, and breathtaking set pieces, Le cercle rouge is the quintessential film by Jean-Pierre Melville—the master of ambiguous, introspective crime cinema.

Video

Presented in Dolby Vision HDR with its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the new 4K restoration done by STUDIOCANAL from the 35 mm original camera negative looks great. The muted colors and contrast give a nice gritty look to the film, and there is no sign of any dirt or tears.

Audio

With an uncompressed monoaural, everything comes in as clear as it can. Perhaps there are a couple signs of its age, but overall, it is a great soundtrack and everything from the dialogue to the score sounds good.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Included on the Blu-Ray disc, there are great interviews with Melville, the cast, and much more that will wonderfully increase knowledge on the director’s career and filmmaking style.

  • Segments from a 1971 episode of Cinéastes de notre temps featuring director Jean-Pierre Melville
  • Interviews with assistant director Bernard Stora and Rui Nogueira, author of Melville on Melville
  • On-set and archival footage, featuring interviews with Melville and actors Alain Delon, Yves Montand, and André Bourvil
  • Trailer
  • Essays by film critics Michael Sragow and Chris Fujiwara, excerpts from Melville on Melville, a 2000 interview with composer Eric Demarsan, and an appreciation by filmmaker John Woo

4k rating divider

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 3/5 stars
  Extras 2/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

3.5/5 stars


Film Details

Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
140 mins
Director
: Jean-Pierre Melville
Writer:
Jean-Pierre Melville
Cast:
Alain Delon Bourvil; Gian Maria Volontè
Genre
: Drama | Crime
Tagline:
The Red Circle is a powerful in-depth study of the French Underworld.
Memorable Movie Quote: "All men are guilty. They're born innocent, but it doesn't last."
Theatrical Distributor:
Rialto Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
January 10, 2003.
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 15, 2022.
Synopsis: Alain Delon plays a master thief, fresh out of prison, who crosses paths with a notorious escapee (Gian Maria Volontè) and an alcoholic ex-cop (Yves Montand). The unlikely trio plot a heist, against impossible odds, until a relentless inspector and their own pasts seal their fates.

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Le Cercle Rouge: The Criterion Collection

 

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