Thursday, June 30, 2016

Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966)

Le deuxième souffle is a French Neo Noir policier/gangster thriller. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur (1956), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), Le Doulos (1962), Le Samouraï (1967), Le Cercle Rouge (1970),  Un Flic (1972)). The film stars Lino Ventura as Gustave Minda, Paul Meurisse as Inspector Blot and Raymond Pellegrin as Paul Ricci, Marcel Bozzuffi as Jo Ricci, Christine Fabréga as Manouche, Michel Constantin as Alban and Pierre Zimmer as Orloff. Cinematography was by Marcel Combes, and music by Bernard Gérard.

Crash out!

Gu Minda (Ventura)
Gu Minda (Ventura) Public Enemy No. 1. Ex-Big shot. Gold train job. Doing life. Ten Years so far. Crashes out of Maximum. On the lam. A decade older. He's slowing down. But still tough. Heads for Paris.

Paul Ricci (Pellegrin) and informer

Paul Ricci's Marseille nightclub
Paul Ricci (Pellegrin) Marseille gangster. Nightclub front. Plans inside job. Platinum armoured car ambush. 1,100 pounds.

Manouche (Christine Fabréga)
 Manouche (Fabréga) ex-girlfriend of Gu runs a Paris cafe. She's palling around with Jacques, "le notaire" who runs the illegal cigarettes rackett with Jo (Bozzuffi) and Paul Ricci. But Jacques is a screw up and Paul wants him out.

Paul Ricci gets some relatives to whack Jacques. Jacques is cowboyed down in front of Manouche at her cafe. Alban good friend of Gu and Manouche's bartender/bodyguard protects her shoots it out with the assassins.

The shootout brings the big heat. Inspector Blot (Meurisse). Blot is a hardboiled vet of the Paris underworld. He knows he's dealing with various factions of the mob and that he'll get no info from all involved. It's all a comedy routine with him as he pokes fun at the principals involved at the crime scene.

Crime scene investigation Alban and Blot (Paul Meurisse)
Manouche without Jaques is shaken down by Jo Ricci. An attempt is made three days later after closing time by two thugs pretending to be crooked cops at her Paris house. They gun whip Alban. He sees stars. Hears birdies chirp. He goes down. They confront Manouche asking for money but they are interrupted by the arrival of Gu who gets the drop on them. Gu and Alban take the two for a ride.

Paul Ricci meanwhile plans his armoured car capper. He's got two trusted goons Pascal Leonetti (Pierre Grasset) and gypsy Antoine Ripa (Denis Manuel) in Marseille but he needs a second shooter. He knows that freelance gunman Orloff (Zimmer) is passing through town and thinks that the chance to make 200 million francs will convince him to join them. Orloff says he needs a week to think it over.

Orloff (Zimmer)
Gu wants to take out Jo Ricci but Blot and the cops figure it out and stake out Jo's bar. Gu gets a second sense about the setup and backs out. He heads to Marseille to catch a boat out of the country where he runs into Orloff who tips Gu to the platinum job. Gu sees $$. So Gu agrees to help Paul Ricci. The job goes well but things go South to Noirsville in the aftermath.


Lino Ventura is memorable as Gustave, the hardcase criminal who faces all bad choices. Paul Meurisse is great as the sarcastic and assertive Inspector Blot.

Screencaps are from the Criterion DVD. 8/10

Monday, June 27, 2016

Noirsville Iconic Artwork of the Week

Night Shadows, Edward Hopper 1921

Red Rock West (1993) Lone Star Loser

Red Rock West was the second shoe string budget Neo Noir directed by John Dahl.  It was written by John Dahl and Rick Dahl. The film stars Nicolas Cage (The Cotton Club (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), Leaving Las Vegas (1995)), Dennis Hopper (I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), The American Friend (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), Black Widow (1987), True Romance (1993), Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks TV Series (1990–1991)), J.T. Walsh (The Grifters (1990)) and Dale Gibson. Music was by William Olvis. Cinematography was by Marc Reshovsky.

Michael Williams (Cage)
Michael Williams (Cage). Wounded warrior. Sempre Fi. Bum leg. Beirut barracks bombing. 1st Battalion 8th Marines. 241 dead. 128 survivors. Michael's busted. A Texas transient. Lone Star loser. Dirt poor drifter. Down but not out. Looking for work. Takes a flier. A buddies tip. Wyoming wildcat roughneck. Ramblin' man.

His cleanest dirty shirt
Cadillac Cowboy. 67 Coupe Deville camp out. State Rt. 487. Asphalt accommodations. Casper-Medicine Bow two lane. The backroad boonies.

He gets a stock tank shave. Puts on his cleanest dirty shirt. Drives a dirt track to the drill site. Honesty is not the best policy. His gimpy knee gets him shot out of the saddle. Screwed. Blew his wad gettin' there. Pissed. Lays out a contrail of dust.  Almost outta gas. A fin to his name. Gas station codger points him to Red Rock. Nearest town with prospects. Check the local watering hole.

Michael blows into town. Pulls up to the Red Rock Bar. Bar just open. Owner Wayne Brown (Walsh) on duty. Spies Michael's Texas plates. Michael walks in looking for work. Wayne says "I thought you were supposed to be here last friday, I thought I would have to find somebody else. You are here for the job ain't you?" Michael scopes the back bar, sees a "Welcome to Wayne's Place" sign. Michael asks "you Wayne?" Michael plays along, he's desperate, he's interested. Wayne asks if he's Lyle, from Dallas, Michael says yea. It's case of mistaken identity. It's Michael's luck day. Wayne takes Michael back to the office.

Wayne and Michael first meet
Wayne (J.T. Walsh)

the hit job
Wayne was expecting a Dallas, Texas hit man named Lyle. Lyle is a pro. Lyle is supposed to whack his wandering whore wife Suzanne (Boyle). Wayne gives Michael $5,000. Half now. Half later. His address and directions. Wayne tells him she's out riding. Wait at the house. Kill her and make it look like a breakin. Michael goes out and scopes the job. She's riding alright, her horse and the baloney pony of a ranch hand Kurt (Gibson) who lives in a nearby trailer.

Suzanne riding her horse

Suzanne about to ride Kurt

Suzanne (Boyle)
Michael waits for Suzanne at the house. She's stunned. Michael gives her the bad news. Your husband wants you chilled. She doubles her husband's offer. Michael's stunned. She wants Michael to ice Wayne.

At this point in the tale Michael has $15,000 in hundred dollar bills and decides get the hell outta Dodge. Good idea. But as he's gettin' he accidently hits Kurt who lunges out into the road in front of him. Doing the right thing, Michael brings Kurt to the local band aid station. This gets Michael his wild ride into Noirsville. Sharp twists and curves ahead.


Lyle (Hopper)

Cage is believable as Michael, he plays the part with the right mix of honesty, humility, chagrin, and boldness. J.T. Walsh is excellent as the bar owner/sheriff with a shady past. Dennis Hopper is entertaining as Lyle the Dallas hit man, doing his slightly over the top schtick, almost homaging/reprising his Frank Booth character from Blue Velvet. Dahl seems to have a penchant for dark brunette Femme Fatales they feature in all three of his Neo Noirs. The films only speed bump is Lara Flynn Boyle, who is merely adequate in her role.  She just seems to simmer along sedately, never quite matching the delicious seediness of Joanne Whalley in Kill Me Again, or the sexy cunning intelligence of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Her attire is 90% unattractive, which I don't quite get. It was a poor decision by the costume department.

The film is entertaining, but I still consider it the weakest of Dahl's Neo Noirs. Filmed mostly in Arizona, with a bit of Montana. The closing freight train sequence before the credits roll looks an awful lot like the old Northern Pacific (now Montana Rail Link) spur that runs up to Polson. The shot is near Charlo, Northwest of St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with the Mission Mountains in the background. I should know I ran a wrecking yard just North of that location back in the 1980s. 8/10