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Archive for October 28th, 2015

the-red-circle-1

 © 2015 by James Clark

      With the catchment of the work of Jean-Pierre Melville and his acolyte Michael Mann—briefly entered by Roman Polanski in his Repulsion (not to mention a train-load of cosmopolitan auteurs getting away from it all by getting close to it all)—the camera’s acuity about the carnal timbre of the players is most important. In The Red Circle (1970) we have, amidst all its bespoke intricacies, a factor raising the bar as never before, namely, a dying actor getting by on much heart and much morphine, within a bolt of endeavor calling upon pretty high-toned vivacity. Veteran comedy and musical actor, Andre Bourvil, in the capacity of Commissioner Mattei, is introduced in the course of being bested by a young and violently buoyant felon who has become his responsibility to deliver to a Paris jail cell by way of a train ride originating, for the duo, from Marseille but having originated in Italy (and even including, rather quirkily, a German coach). The fugitive from justice has kicked out a window of their sleeping compartment in the crepuscule moments of early light when the weight of inertia weighs most dauntingly; and after unsuccessfully pursuing his charge through wooded territory and emptying his pistol in the general but not specific enough direction he returns to the now stationary chic vehicle where sophisticates show their wardrobes and breeding (one actually saying, “I say!”) en route to even more racy fun in the City of Light. The fugitive had, in the shadowy sleeper, shown one feature of his presence to be dominant, namely, a pair of gleaming dark eyes—the eyes of a ruthless predator. We soon discover that his name is Vogel (German for bird) and as he pounds through the rough terrain in his black suit jacket with white shirt and tie he could be a raven or a magpie, though the latter would belie his wordless bearing. Mattei, similarly sartorially elegant, shows us a pair of medically altered, faded eyes to match his chalky, carved-out facial features. Come to think of it, though, Vogel could be, more than anything, a hawk (with a problem of attaining to soaring and thus missing out on becoming an icon of masterful power and grace). And in his hapless victim’s phoning in his report of the incident he shows no overt embarrassment. “The prisoner I was accompanying has escaped.” Mattei may be on his last legs but his heart has not descended to the bathos of forgetting that others can be a handful and colleagues may either comprehend this or go to hell. (more…)

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