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Film Studies 101
Feature
Become A Heist Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies
Master a genre in just a handful of films

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Become A Heist Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies | Le Circle Rouge (1970)
Le Circle Rouge (1970)

Tagline: “No place to hide… Nowhere to run…”

If the term ‘noir’ makes you think of men in raincoats shooting at each other in between downing slugs of bourbon, you probably grew up watching the same movies as Jean-Pierre Melville. The French director’s influences, from Raoul Walsh to John Huston by way of Dashiell Hammet and his local mac shop, are melded together with a large slug of Gallic élan in this bleak 1970 heist caper, Melville’s penultimate film and one of his best. It brought together ex-con Alain Delon (redefining cool despite balancing what appears to be a caterpillar on his top lip), violent wildcard Gian-Maria Volonté and ex-police marksman Yves Montand as a band of wanted men planning one final hit. The line between good and bad guys is as grey as the Parisian alleyways and sparse countryside in which they operate. The heist itself is planned partly in a ‘20s-style Parisian speakeasy, giving it the feel of a trenchcoated throwback. Homage it may be, but it's executed with all the precision you’d expect from Melville, a master of the genre. In a word: magnifique.

Iconic moment: The heist itself, like a hardboiled version of The Pink Panther, sees Delon and Volonte break into the jewellers through a bathroom window, cosh the guard and clean the place out, before walking out the front door bold as brass.

What to quote: “All men are guilty. They're born innocent, but it doesn't last.”

Pub trivia: The title comes from a Buddhist quote made up by the director: “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.”

Further reading… Topkapi (1964), Bob Le Flambeur (1956), Sexy Beast (2000)
 

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