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      The Red Circle

      Now Playing 2h 20m Crime Drama List
      96% Tomatometer 69 Reviews 92% Audience Score 5,000+ Ratings When French criminal Corey (Alain Delon) gets released from prison, he resolves to never return. He is quickly pulled back into the underworld, however, after a chance encounter with escaped murderer Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte). Along with former policeman and current alcoholic Jansen (Yves Montand), they plot an intricate jewel heist. All the while, quirky Police Commissioner Mattei (Bourvil), who was the one to lose custody of Vogel, is determined to find him. Read More Read Less Now in Theaters Now Playing Buy Tickets
      The Red Circle

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      Critics Consensus

      Melville is at the top of his game, giving us his next-to-last entry into the world of deception, crime, and extreme suspense that made him a maestro of the French heist genre.

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      Critics Reviews

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      Derek Malcolm Guardian Once again, Melville and his cinematographer, Henri Decae, have achieved something that's very nice to look at and also tightly enough constructed to follow with interest throughout. There is, in particular, a superb jewel robbery sequence. Oct 24, 2023 Full Review Richard Brody New Yorker Grimly elegant... Jun 21, 2021 Full Review David Parkinson Empire Magazine A classic cornerstone of the heist genre from a master of the nouvelle vague. Rated: 4/5 Dec 30, 2006 Full Review Arthur Thirkell Daily Mirror (UK) This entertaining French-made film has no frills, but plenty of thrills. Oct 24, 2023 Full Review George Melly Observer (UK) There's a lot of happenstance, but it's tautly directed, and the individual crooks and cops, while fond of Gallic platitudes, are well observed. Oct 24, 2023 Full Review Madeleine Harmsworth Sunday Mirror (UK) French thriller, full of holes, with a reasonably ingenious robbery sequence halfway through. Oct 24, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Audience Member In the moody and introspective tradition of "The Asphalt Jungle," Jean Pierre Melville demonstrates his mastery of the heist genre, reeling us in a bit at a time with a story that is stylish, taciturn, and laden with attitude. In a fashion that is perfectly suited to the noir aesthetic, Melville heightens the dramatic action of his film through the skillful use of silence and intense focus, crafting a riveting experience that involves us in every step of the process. We grow enmeshed in a story that is all the more engaging for its sly intelligence and bold willingness to counterbalance the precision mechanics of the heist with a deeper contemplation of inherent criminality. While afflicted by one or two notably farfetched developments, "Le Cercle Rouge" is nonetheless a taut thriller that will surely leave the viewer hungry for more. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Audience Member Maxi-cool French crime drama, drawn out quietly by Melville, aided by quintessential performances by Delon, Bourvil and Montand. The trench coats, the cigarettes, the jazz, c'est typique; the 40 minute silent robbery, quite something else. A Buddhist inspired, American western tribute piece set in a very masculine France. There are many essays on what it means: chance, fate, life - a little impenetrable but an essential watch. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/12/23 Full Review matthew d Stylish as few heist films could ever hope to feel. Director Jean-Pierre Melville's French neo-noir crime drama Le Cercle Rouge (1970) remains a standout classic among French cinema. Melville's Le Samourai and Army of Shadows were magnificent practice for how doomed his atmosphere feels for Le Cercle Rouge. His slow burn direction keeps you on edge like you're literally along for the ride with these shady characters. Le Cercle Rouge is all about who you can trust when committing crimes and how people can change for the worse over time. It's got chic style with long trench-coats and fedoras like the old film noirs, but with a 70's French aesthetic. Melville's direction has tons of effortless cool and crazy helicopter ultra wide shots. I love the intense finale heist and all the smaller encounters with criminals along the way. Cinematographer Henri Decaë uses slick panning wide shots to allow us to see into dark rooms and on rooftops at night. I love the select close-ups for all the little nuances of these tough guys. Editors Jean-Pierre Melville and Marie-Sophie Dubus' sharp cuts between shots and scenes are timed to the music with strict cues. There's neat storytelling in between every moment that lets you know what's happening without ever needing to be told verbally. Melville's writing feels detailed to the point of being meticulous, enigmatic heroes that are all crooks except for a lone inspector, and hopeless in tone. You always feel a dreadful sense that something will go wrong as there's too many variables and enemies surrounding the trio of robbers. I guess crime doesn't pay after all. The inspector is constantly being told that people never change and will end up immoral by the end of their life. He gets to see possibly decent men otherwise turn to a life of crime. It's 140 minutes of charming characters and depressing results on hopeful scores. Composer Éric Demarsan wrote a playful jazz score that's moody for the darker passages and fun during the nightclub visits. Sound designer Jean Nény uses the ambient silence of night and little noises in the vault to really unnerve you. There's often disquieting noises in the background for realism and an eerie atmosphere. Alain Delon (Le Samourai) is captivating as French master thief Corey, fresh out of prison. His calm and measured cat burglar is refined and clever in every way. Bourvil as the crafty and persistent Inspector Mattei. He's often funny and charming in a pleasant old man type of demeanor. Gian Maria Volonté (A Fistful of Dollars & For a Few Dollars More) is ruthless and aggressive as escaped convict Vogel. His paranoia and caution is a nice foil and pairing for Delon's quiet and more subtle Corey. Yves Montand's ex-cop sniper is really touching. In short, I loved Le Cercle Rouge. It's one of the greatest crime dramas ever made. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member A well made noire in colour. Mission d'impossible is pulled off by Melville's usual cool customer criminals before the inevitable head's up with the police. Decent film, particularly the crime scene which is full of tension. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review david f I loved the stripped down style, the tons of atmosphere, and the long, slow, silent jewelry robbery near the end. This is a stylish, fatalistic thriller made by a master. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Audience Member [Exterior. Paris. Grey, grey, grey.] Alain Delon, Gian-Maria Volonté and Yves Montand play an unlikely trio- one was just released from jail, the second fled it, and the third is an ex-cop. The three plan a big coup by breaking into a big jewelry store at Place Vendome, and are being chased by a grim inspector and rivals from the underworld. Le Cercle Rouge by the french Nouvelle Vague pioneer and Film Noir master Jean-Pierre Melville is a big, gloomy ganster film about friendship and loyalty, about guilt and betrayal. Centered around this precisely planned break-in, and with a famous heist-scene that is 30 minutes long and without any dialogue, it is the masterpiece in the championship of the neo-noir crime film. It is not unusual that 10 minutes will pass before we hear the first words of dialogue in a Melville film, often being already over 30 scenes into the story. His cinema is one of a grey cinematography that loves the blue monochrome night, when reality is at it's most poetic and self-knowledge most acute, faces sculptured by light and shadow, the modelage of time and silence. It is a cinema of few words, words replaced by gestures, close-ups of silent faces, and just the flicker of thoughts. These faces all tell the same melvillian story: they are all marked by fatality, and death is their destiny. Siddhartha Gautama: the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: "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." (Epigraph to Le Cercle Rouge) In Le Cercle Rouge, like in most of Melville's films, his protagonists cannot escape their fates- they all die, being shot from behind, cold and trist, and the film ends. They are noble on their way to death, not rearing up anxiously like deadly injured animals, but facing it calmly and composed. Gestures and habits become the unchanged rituals of survival: lighting a cigarette, dressing stylishly, adjusting the hat, putting on gloves and driving the car. The life of a ganster consists of ceremonial acts, and the melvillian gangster rises above ordinary people by dying in dignity. Melville casted actors like Alain Delon and Yves Montand on their credibility in the loneliness, betrayal, violence, and male friendship of solidary silence. His is an entirely male cinema, and his protagonists move on a path of self-destruction or self-sacrifice, it is a melancholy realm of beautiful characters dispossessed by fate. And it is this what distinguishes Melville's films from just being crime movies, because they culminate in fundamental feelings and universal emotions. Thus, in addition to the solid structure and crime-plot of his stories, Melville always strived to show the torments of men exposed to their fate. Melville's morality is surprising and demanding: there can only be an absolute sincerity, though it often manifests itself in unlikely ways and tortuous paths. Having been a resistance-fighter in his youth, Melville's life and work stays true to the Resistànce. Nobody in his universe seems to know that the war is over, and they do not waste one thought on laying their arms down. Their war is never over. A solidarity connects the typical protagonists of his cinema, especially the bad boys, the scapegraces, the hard-boiled guys of the underworld, and the fighters of La Resitànce. A solidarity due to their code of honor, their existence in the underground, the precision of their practices and their knowledge. But also due to their relation to commitment and betrayal, their ability to endure pain and kill each other in the name of morality and silence. Alain Delon gave his best performances in his three films with Melville, with his talents and features being perfecty led and distilled within this unique actor-director symbiose. Unforgotten is his extremely focused and chilling performance as ice-cold and detached killer in ‘Le Samourai' (read my review here), the most acknowledged film in Melville's h'oeuvre. With no visible feelings and thoughts, but just delivering the lonely routine of a killer- yet with a streak of vertigo hinting at a personality disorder making him perceive the world from behind a somnambul veil- Delon was devoted to Melville after playing ‘Le Samourai'. His performance in Le Cercle Rouge is even better though, without the vertigo-effect even more minimalistic and austere in the sense of american ‘underacting', being an almost abstract figure within the narrative construction, but with his typical unmoved and anonymous compassion. Le Cercle Rouge also has an excellent jazz-crime score composed by Eric Demarsan, who collaborated with the great Francois de Roubaix (Le Samourai) before. It underlines the cool chic and fatalism with modern jazz sounds and the typical European 60s & 70s melancholy in its themes. Melville used film music in the most sophisticated sense, to deliberately sculpture the silence that dominates his films, to form feelings and thoughts with sound when they just flicker on screen. Jean-Pierre Melville's passionate admiration of the American cinema of the 30's and 40's is the fundament for his cinematic determination, but he took it further and perfectionized it. It's beautiful to see the French-American circle close with contemporary directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch referring to Melville as one of their major influences. It is a cinema fallen out of time, slow-paced, chic, in absence of modern chaos and cacaphony, but do yourself a favor to discover it and shed a tear over what we have lost, and the unavoidable fatality of everything. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 02/22/23 Full Review Read all reviews Post a rating

      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis When French criminal Corey (Alain Delon) gets released from prison, he resolves to never return. He is quickly pulled back into the underworld, however, after a chance encounter with escaped murderer Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte). Along with former policeman and current alcoholic Jansen (Yves Montand), they plot an intricate jewel heist. All the while, quirky Police Commissioner Mattei (Bourvil), who was the one to lose custody of Vogel, is determined to find him.
      Jean-Pierre Melville
      Jean-Pierre Melville
      Rialto Pictures
      Production Co
      Les Films Corona, Selenia Cinematografica
      Crime, Drama
      Original Language
      French (France)
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Jan 2, 1970, Wide
      Rerelease Date (Theaters)
      Jan 10, 2003
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Oct 8, 2016
      Box Office (Gross USA)
      2h 20m
      Sound Mix