Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bob le Flambeur (1956) Laissez les bons temps rouler

Bob is a player. A high roller. Born with an ace in his palm.

Montmartre, 18th arrondissement, Paris. Bob's " hood." Excon. Bank robbery. He's been a well known fixture for twenty some odd years since, among the denizens "de la nuit." He's even quite friendly with the police commissioner Ledru. It seems that long ago a criminal "the Stick" took a shot at him but Bob deflected his gun at the last moment, saving his life.

When Bob's on a winning streak he goes and bets the harness horses at the Hippodrome, or heads to the Channel beach casino at Deauville. He's a complete gambleholic. He even has a one armed bandit that he keeps in the closet at his home.

Bob wears a fedora and trenchcoat with panache. He regularly trolls throughout the night, he's got a circuit, the cafes, the private clubs, the night spots, the bars and back rooms of Place Pigalle. He combs for games of chance, craps or cards. Today he's having a run of bad luck. At dawn almost broke he quits.

Heading back on foot to his flat. He spots a young girl, une jeune fils strolling the concrete, the prostituée Anne. Fresh talent. He's never noticed her before. Bob gives her some friendly advice, telling her that, she'll end up a "pavement princess," and he slips her some money for a hotel. Bob is played by Roger Duchesne the femme fatale streetwalker Anne by Isabelle Corey.

Bob (Roger Duchesne)

Bob at the end of a long night

Streetwalker Anne (Isabelle Corey)

Anne (Isabelle Corey)

When later, Bob sees Anne walking down the street carrying a suitcase he asks her if she didn't use the money he gave her, and she replies that she had to use it to pay off her hotel bill so that she could get her clothes. Bob offers her the use of his apartment. Bob is afraid that she will fall into the clutches of Marc (Gérard Buhr) a notorious Montmartre pimp.

Marc (Gérard Buhr) and Bob

Marc has got to split town the police are searching for him. He goes to Bob's flat and asks for money. Bob is good for staking people not quite on the straight and narrow. Bob is about to hand him a hundred francs but when he finds out that Marc beat up his whore, he tells him to get the hell out.

Marc and Le commissaire Ledru (Guy Decomble) 
Marc gets picked up by the police. Le commissaire Ledru (Guy Decomble), tells him that if he gives him something, rat's something he will let him off. He wants him to be a stoolie. Marc says that he knows of nothing, but if Ledru lets him loose he'll get him something.

Ledru (Guy Decomble) 
Anne using Bob's place to crash, meets Bobs sort of protegete/shadow, a punk kid named Paulo (Daniel Cauchy), Paulo becomes completely infatuated with Anne. Bob still trying to help, finds Anne work as a cigarette gal at his old partner in crime Roger's (André Garet) nightclub.

Paulo and Anne

Paulo (Daniel Cauchy)


Cigarette Girl Anne

Bob's most recent luck run seems to change when he and Roger win a stake at the track. They drive two plus hours or so to Deauville and while Bob gambles Roger meets up with an old pimp they used to know Jean (Claude Cerval). He got married and turned legit and is now a croupier at the casino. Jean, sitting around bullshiting with Roger lets slip that the casino, on the week of the Grand Prix, had 800 million francs in it's safe. Later Roger on the drive back to Paris, tells this to Bob, who lost his wad of dough. Bob hearing this news, breaks bad, and begins to think of robbing the casino. Bob and Roger (an ex box man) begin to plan a heist. From Jean they need the complete floor plan of the casino. From a money man named Mc Kimmey (Howard Vernon) they operating dough.

Deauville Casino

 Former pimp now croupier Jean (Claude Cerval) and Roger (André Garet) 
While all that is going on Paulo is basically getting fucked stupid by Anne. When Bob and Roger start to organize the heist Paulo is included in the plans. They get the floor plan, recreate the casino in chalk in a field and lay out all the details.

After another marathon session in bed with Anne, Paulo boasts to her that soon he will give her the moon. He spills about the heist at Deauville. Anne during all this time has worked her way up at Roger's club graduating to the role of a "hostess." One night she lets herself get picked up by Marc. She goes home with him for a roll in the hay, and while they are canoodling afterwards she tells Marc that Paulo will soon be rolling in it. When Marco gets way too much interested in this news Anne immediately knows she made a mistake. Anne runs to find Bob and tells him what she said to Marc. Bob angrily slaps her. He asks how long ago did she tell Marc, she tells him five minutes and Bob hurrying, heads out to tell Paulo and Roger that the heist is off unless they can find and stop Marc. Then they spread out to look for Marc. Paulo finds him in a brasserie just as he's about to phone tip the police about Bob's plans and shoots him down.

With Marc out of the way the heist is still on.

Paulo searching for Marc

Gunning Marc down

Of course the croupier's wife who has grown suspicious of Jean's sudden wealth prys the deal with Roger and Bob out of Jean. And then wants to blackmail Bob for more.

Susanne (Colette Fleury) and Jean
When Susanne can't find Bob she decides to tip the police about the heist, and it goes Noirsville in Deauville.


The whole cast performs flawlessly, I was surprised that both Isabelle Corey and Roger Duchesne didn't continue to make more films. This was Duchesne's second to last film, and Corey was only active until 1961. Melville was just hitting his stride, his next film was Two Men In Manhattan. The gorgeous cinematography of the environs around Montmartre was by Henri Decaë, and the interesting score was by Eddie Barclay and Jo Boyer. This film was an influence for Jean-Luc Godard.

Screencaps are from the Criterion DVD. 8/10

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